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A Year Later, Immigration Activists Call On Gimenez To Drop Fed Compliance

Tim Padgett
South Florida immigration activists protest Tuesday morning in front the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, where Mayor Carlos Gimenez was about to give his State of the County address.

Last January, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez agreed to a federal request to hand over undocumented immigrant detainees. That decision is controversial a year later, and on Tuesday immigration activists stepped up calls on Gimenez to reverse it.

The day they chose offered a measure of symbolism: Gimenez was about to give his State of the County address at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, just hours before President Trump was to give his State of the Union speech in Washington. So immigrant advocacy groups including the Florida Immigrant Coalition, We Count and New Florida Majority gathered across the street from the auditorium to protest.

That’s because Gimenez decided last year to comply with Trump’s “detainer” requests. Since then, the county has turned over an average of one detainee a day who’s wanted on federal immigration charges.

“A year after Mayor Gimenez basically gave in to Trump’s threats of taking away local funding, more deportations have happened, more criminalization of our communities, for something that was not necessary," said Paula Muñoz of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

The funding Muñoz refers to is the more than $300 million in federal grants Gimenez feared Miami-Dade would lose if it didn’t cooperate with the feds, who at that time considered Miami-Dade a "sanctuary city" shielding undocumented immigrants. Muñoz said legal experts argue such de-funding would have been unconstitutional, given the 10th Amendment rules forbidding local governments from being forced to undertake federal responsibilities like immigration enforcement.

As a result, said Muñoz, “We’re going to keep pressuring that these policies stop and that we’re able to protect our immigrant communities.”

This month, Miami-Dade asked the federal government to start reimbursing the county for the extra jail costs due to the detainer requests. Trump insists the federal detainer requests are meant to enhance public security.