On January 25, President Donald Trump signed an executive order stripping federal funding from so-called "sanctuary cities," which refuse to detain undocumented immigrants in their jails on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The vast majority of the nation's big cities vowed to fight the ban. Just one big-city mayor — Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez — relented immediately, acquiescing to Trump the very next day and flooding Miami's massive immigrant community with fear.
Legal experts argued that Trump's order didn't actually have any real authority, and warned that it was useless for Gimenez to rush to change county law to comply with Trump. Now, it appears those lawyers were right: A federal judge has officially issued a nationwide injunction against Trump's "sanctuary city" ban.
"Given the nationwide scope of the Order, and its apparent constitutional flaws, a Nationwide Injunction is appropriate," William Orrick, a U.S. District Judge in California, wrote late Tuesday. Gimenez's county-level changes, however, remain in effect.
The judge's order cited Gimenez specifically. Earlier this year, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer thanked Gimenez from the White House briefing room after Gimenez signed his January 26 order forcing Dade jails to hold undocumented detainees for 48 hours on behalf of ICE. (The Miami-Dade County Commission later voted 9-3 to ratify Gimenez's order on February 17.)
"Lauding Miami-Dade's actions, Spicer noted that Miami-Dade 'understand[s] the importance of this order' and encouraged other jurisdictions to follow its lead,'" Orrick wrote.
After the judge's order came down, a spokesman for Mayor Gimenez said he still believes he made the right decision.
"Mayor Gimenez made the correct decision to protect Miami-Dade County from potentially losing federal dollars," says Michael Hernandez via text. "A majority of the county commission agreed."
It bears noting that Gimenez's son, CJ, is a lobbyist who has worked in the past with the Trump family. On April 7, CJ Gimenez announced that he had joined a lobbying firm run by Corey Lewandowski, the Trump-boosting CNN pundit and former Trump campaign manager.
Another federal court using the President's words (and the words of all his men) against his executive order pic.twitter.com/xwxx7pnMXf— Mike Sacks (@MikeSacksEsq) April 25, 2017
The biggest takeaway from today's order is that all the strife Miami has endured over Gimenez's order could have been totally avoided had the mayor simply waited a few short months.
Protests erupted outside County Hall the day after Gimenez signed his order. Demonstrators arrived to find the majority of the public building inexplicably shut down, including the nearby MetroMover stop. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who was in Miami at the time campaigning to chair the Democratic National Committee, was even briefly blocked from entering the building. The mayor was conveniently out of town that day.
At a later protest outside county hall, undocumented immigrants told the crowd they feared Gimenez's order would encourage local cops and immigration officials to deport them. Miami-area politicians accused Gimenez of selling out the city's gigantic immigrant and refugee population.
Howard Simon, the director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, warned that Trump's order had no legal standing, and would soon be blocked. He encouraged Gimenez to reconsider his actions. The mayor declined. A group of 48 civil rights organizations and 40 religious leaders begged Gimenez to reconsider, since the order had terrified the city's immigrants. A group of protesters even went on a weeklong hunger strike to try to get Gimenez to back down.
Then, at a county commission meeting on February 17, hundreds of residents spoke out against the measure. Some cried. Others said they were worried an increase in deportations would rip them from their families or children. The County Commission, however, voted 9-3 to back Gimenez anyway.
"May God have mercy on your souls!" one woman shouted after the vote ended.
The anger, it seems, could have all been avoided, had the mayor waited — like every other big city mayor in America — for courts to rule on Trump's order.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.