Miami-Dade Commissioner Says Sanctuary-City Vote Was About "Illegal Criminal Immigrants"

Miami-Dade Commissioner Says Sanctuary-City Vote Was About "Illegal Criminal Immigrants"
Image via Miami-Dade County TV
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This past Friday, Miami-Dade commissioners spent hours blathering about how their vote to comply with President Trump's ban on "sanctuary" communities was purely financial. Trump has threatened to pull funding for communities that refuse to hold suspects wanted on federal immigrant requests. That's why commissioners voted 9-3 Friday to comply, they said, despite hours of emotional testimony from worried residents.

But this past weekend, at least one member of the county government began showing his true colors — by smearing Miami's undocumented immigrant community and revealing the hidden prejudices that likely motivated Miami-Dade's anti-sanctuary-city order all along.

"I voted against ILLEGAL CRIMINAL immigrants and I would do so again," newly elected Commissioner Joe A. Martinez said on Facebook yesterday. "I guess you don't mind illegal criminal immigrants in our community. Law abiding people do mind." [sic]

Martinez opened himself up to a torrent of criticism because mere hours after his sanctuary-city vote, he announced on Facebook he was holding a weekend memorial for Cuban-American refugees. Commenters immediately pointed out the hypocrisy: Martinez, himself a Cuban-American, spent the morning cracking down on non-Cuban immigrants from the county dais before celebrating the fact that Cuban refugees have been given remarkably preferential treatment in U.S. immigration law for decades.

Martinez did not respond to a call to his office to comment on that contradiction.

But commenters swiftly called Martinez a hypocrite — and he has since deleted the entire squabble and replaced it with a new post. Thankfully, some screen shots exist:

"As a law-abiding person, what I mind is having a commissioner that doesn't know the difference between criminal law and immigration law," Drea Núñez, a local activist, wrote.

Local labor organizer Tomas Kennedy, meanwhile, wrote that Martinez was "taking a page straight out of Trump's book by generalizing the immigrant community as criminals. These commissioners don't represent us and are unfit for office."

It's unclear exactly which "anti-law-abiding citizen" Martinez was even talking about — it's hard to argue that anyone wants any type of criminal moving in next door and using the local laundromat. Activists for undocumented immigrants point out that people who cross the border without proper immigration papers are typically trying to escape violence, extreme poverty, or political oppression. To a sitting Miami-Dade commissioner, these people are apparently "ILLEGAL CRIMINAL immigrants."

Likewise, Martinez is a former Miami-Dade cop, which means he should doubly know better than to use a gigantic brush to paint the entire undocumented community. Most statistics show that crime rates are lower in immigrant American communities than they are in natural-born ones.

But perhaps that's not surprising. On Friday, Martinez had the gall to tell the hundreds of protesters that their fears about ICE detention requests were unfounded and that they'd all been hoodwinked. (He did not speculate who'd done the bamboozling.)

"Are we talking about all immigrants, or are we talking about illegal immigrants who commit a crime?" Martinez asked during Friday's commission meeting. "That’s where you all have been misled. And that’s what’s sad."

He was booed Friday for those comments. And he was also wrong: Undocumented people do not need to be convicted of any crime to be held in ICE detention for 48 hours or to be placed into deportation proceedings.

Likewise, none of Miami-Dade's nine pro-Trump voters Friday addressed the fact that the president is actively working to expand the number of deportable offenses in the country. Miami's right-leaning commissioners may have voted Friday to let Trump crack down on "ILLEGAL CRIMINAL immigrants," but none of those nine small-minded folks had the foresight to wonder if that definition might one day expand to include people close to them too.

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