MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is coming to Miami-Dade County amid a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities.READ MORE: Florida Considers Teaching Risks, Benefits Of Social Media
On Wednesday, Sessions plans on giving remarks at Port Miami highlighting places like Miami-Dade which he says has increased their cooperation and information sharing with federal immigration authorities.
The Department of Justice said the county has “demonstrated a fundamental commitment to the rule of law and lowering violent crime.”
Although Miami-Dade has never claimed to be a sanctuary community, a change in county policy in 2013 led the Obama administration to put the county on notice.
The 2013 change required Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reimburse Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department for holding jailed undocumented immigrants for ICE or else they’d be released.
“Mayor Gimenez and Miami-Dade County have been working with the Department of Justice since President Obama was in office when the Obama administration declared that we may be a sanctuary community and at risk of losing federal funds, millions of dollars of federal funds,” said Miami-Dade County Communications Dir. Michael Hernandez. “We worked with the Obama administration, then we worked with the Trump administration.”
Mayor Carlos Gimenez reversed the 2013 policy on detention requests shortly after President Trump took office and threatened to withhold funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
The move led to protests and concern in the community with many fearing that Miami-Dade County police officers could be called on to enforce immigration policy.
“There’s a process that everyone goes through. There’s a criminal alien program which identifies those who have committed the most heinous of crimes,” said Francesca Menes, the director of policy and advocacy for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We’re not going to go through the kind of back and forth of good immigrant versus bad immigrant but it’s just the fact that you think it’s OK to violate anybody’s rights.”
Commissioner Xavier Suarez voted against the latest change in policy because he said what was already in place was constitutional and cooperative with federal requirements.READ MORE: Marlins, Sandy Alcantara Complete 5-Year, $56 Million Contract
“I think that the mayor was erroneous in his judgment and his analysis felt that we could be deprived of certain federal funds because we could be characterized as a sanctuary county but we were not,” Suarez said.
Sessions has moved to punish s0-called sanctuary cities by threatening to deny federal crime-fighting resources to four cities racked by violence, if they don’t step up efforts to help detain and deport people living in the country illegally.
The Justice Department sent letters to cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they will be ineligible for a new program that aims to root out drug trafficking and gang crime unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice before releasing someone in custody who is wanted on immigration violations. The cities — Baltimore, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California — all expressed interest in the Justice Department’s new Public Safety Partnership, which enlists federal agents, analysts and technology to help communities find solutions to crime.
“By taking simple, common-sense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement,” Sessions said in a statement that accompanied the letters. “That will ultimately make all of us safer — especially law enforcement on our streets.”
In the letters, the department asked the four prospective cities’ police departments to show proof of their compliance by Aug. 18.
The threat marks Sessions’ latest effort to force local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, part of a push to reduce crime he believes is linked to illegal immigration.
Sessions has pledged to make fighting street crime the Justice Department’s top priority, but the strategy is putting him at odds with some city leaders, who say the best way to fight crime and build community trust is to keep local police out of federal immigration matters.
Sessions has told jurisdictions they need to meet the same conditions or lose out on millions of dollars from a separate program that aims to send grant money to support law enforcement. That move made some local officials more defiant.
The Justice Department in June tapped 12 cities to receive aid through the Public Safety Partnership, and officials said the four cities that were sent the letters had expressed interest in the next chance at participating. Cities were chosen based on higher-than-average rates of violence and willingness to receive the help and training. Cities that want to be involved going forward will have to show they allow unfettered communication between police and federal immigration authorities, give agents access to jails in order to question immigrants, and provide them 48-hours’ notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.MORE NEWS: Hurricane Flags Burned In Key West To Mark Storm Season's End
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