Complying with Donald Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants doesn't seem to trouble Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez much. He's spent the weeks since his January 26 order — which declared that his county will not act as a "sanctuary" to immigrants — by smearing his local opposition and spreading Trumpian falsehoods on the radio.
But the order means a heck of a lot to the millions of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, who live in Miami-Dade County. And to show Gimenez just how seriously they're taking the order, eight local activists announced today they'll fast until Friday to draw attention to the mayor's decision.
"Today at 1pm, we escalate the struggle by launching an interfaith fast to demand that Miami-Dade County protect, not endanger, our immigrant families," writes Muhammed Malik, one of the eight activists participating in the fast. He adds, "As people representing a cross section of faiths, we feel an urgency to speak up against what we see as a moral injustice. These are frightening times for many in Miami-Dade, and not just for those who may have undocumented family and friends."
This Friday, the County Commission will hold a special meeting to debate whether to overturn Gimenez's order. The fast participants say they'll forgo food until the meeting begins — and plan to spend most of their time sitting outside County Hall — as a stark reminder to both Gimenez and the entire County Commission that their actions have consequences.
The eight participants come from diverse backgrounds: One activist, Umi Selah, is participating as part of the Dream Defenders, a statewide group of black-rights activists. Another, Juan Carlos Carabantes, is a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 policy that allowed undocumented people brought here as children to apply for two-year deportation deferrals. Immigration activists have long worried that Trump will work to undo DACA protections.
"I am fasting to highlight the injustice, and as a call to solidarity among all, so you can see the sacrifice and the resistance that our community has just by being alive on this Earth," Carabantes wrote in Spanish online. "I'm tired of our community being attacked. I'm tired of seeing my parents and our neighbors fear every day. I'm tired of my life being discussed as if it's nothing."
Other participants, including activists Zenia Perez and Erika Grohoski Peralta, are members of Miami-Dade's Democratic Party and the Miami-Dade County Progressive Caucus, a group that was formed in response to infighting over whom Miami's Democratic Party would support for state party chair.
The hunger strike ensures that a scandal Gimenez has tried to downplay will remain at the forefront of county political discussions for yet another week. Gimenez said he made the move because Trump threatened to withhold funding from cities that refuse to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
But scores of independent experts, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the order could actually cost the county more money. Miami-Dade had previously declined to detain undocumented people on behalf of ICE because the feds wouldn't pay for that jail time. Now that Gimenez rescinded that policy, the detentions could cost local taxpayers millions of dollars and open Miami-Dade up to wrongful-incarceration lawsuits.
On February 1, Democratic Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who opposes the order, asked County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams a set of nine legal questions demanding to know whether Miami-Dade's federal funding was ever truly at risk in the first place. Levine also asked the county to draft a resolution letting Miami-Dade sue to stop Trump's order from taking effect.
The hunger strike is certain to frustrate the mayor. After labor activist Tomas Kennedy helped to organize a series of anti-Gimenez protests earlier this month, the mayor attacked Kennedy by falsely claiming he had started a rumor that ICE agents were doing roadblocks in Miami.
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.