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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade commissioners gathered for the first time since the mayor adopted a policy which undid its status as a ‘sanctuary city’ and things got raucous as protestors turned out, even though the issue was not on the agenda.
The policy ordering immigrants to be detained for the federal government has caused protests. Critics say Mayor Carlos Gimenez caved in too quickly after President Donald Trump threatened to pull funding for ‘sanctuary cities.’
“Hey Gimenez shame on you, you are an immigrant too,” protesters chanted Tuesday morning in the county hall lobby.
While the commission had called a special meeting for February 17th to review the mayor’s order, some discussed the matter in the hallway outside Tuesday’s meeting.
Commissioner Xavier Suarez is on record now, opposing what critics see as Gimenez caving in. Suarez says Gimenez’s directive ordering even those charged with minor offenses detained is in violation of a standing policy set by commissioners three years ago.
“Only when there’s a serious crime committed or a pending accusation of a serious crime should we hold someone simply because they are an undocumented alien,” said Suarez to CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
President Trump’s executive order actually applies to any non-citizen immigrant, documented or not.
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava is also questioning the mayor’s detention order.
“There are real questions about the legality of the president’s executive order so my concern is that we take our time, don’t rush,” said Levine Cava.
Among those demonstrating at County Hall on Tuesday was Juan Carlos Gomez from Mexico who has lived and worked in South Florida for six and a half years.
“We are part of the community and we’re here, we’re going to fight back. What we want is the communities to stand with us, not with Trump,” Gomez said.
Not everyone felt the same way. Juan Fiol attended the county commission meeting wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt.
“We have to respect the laws of this country and we have to allow ICE, the immigration services, to do their jobs,” Fiol said.
All of this comes a day after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Mayor Gimenez may have misread the law and the risk of losing aid.
The group wrote a 10-page letter to county commissioners Monday saying, “The County should not give in to President Trump’s bluster.”
It went on, “Although Mayor Gimenez and others may have been misled to believe otherwise, Miami-Dade does not risk the loss of any federal funding.”
Before, the county refused to detain an inmate for immigration, unless they were arrested for a serious offense. The policy of requiring cities to cooperate with 48 hour holds on arrestees began under the Obama administration. Miami-Dade balked because the federal government refused to cover the costs of the detentions.
The ACLU and others argue Miami-Dade’s original policy did not conflict with Trump’s order saying it cited a federal statute that requires local governments to share citizenship information with ICE.
“Regrettably,” the letter says, “the Mayor appears to have been duped.”
The group is urging citizens to call their county commissioners and lobby them to overturn the mayor’s decision.
Mayor Gimenez issued the directive back on January 26th and continues to defend his decision saying the county could have lost millions in funding.
“It’s $350 million of federal funding and then possibly hundreds of millions, if not billions, in terms of transit money that’s totally discretionary that’s at risk so I don’t think that’s something, we want to do,” said Mayor Gimenez.
Gimenez said last month they never claimed Miami-Dade County was a ‘sanctuary city,’ despite being on the Department of Justice’s official list.
The mayor has said he needs commissioners to approve his order for it to stick. Since the mayor’s directive, he says Miami-Dade jails have processed 16, 48-hour detention requests.
“All but one are repeat offenders,” Gimenez said on Tuesday. “Most of those offenses are not for jaywalking.”
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