Two undocumented immigrants who were arrested for driving without a license and face deportation are suing Miami-Dade County over its immigration detention policy. The lawsuit was filed in federal court this week, claiming the county’s policy is unconstitutional.
Last year, Miami-Dade reversed a county policy and started to honor federal immigration detention requests. The policy switch came days after President Donald Trump was elected and threatened with withholding federal funds if counties, like Miami-Dade, did not comply with these requests.
If a person is about to be released from jail after posting bond or serving a sentence, they are not allowed to leave immediately if immigration authorities are looking for them. A person is instead held for an additional 48 hours in jail to give the federal agency time to pick them up.
WLRN reporter Nadege Green fills in for Tom Hudson as host of The Florida Roundup. She discusses the county's policy and the lawsuit with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and WLRN reporter Danny Rivero.
WLRN: Let's start with the lawsuit. Danny, you were at the press conference this week with immigration groups that are part of the suit. What did they say about why they're suing?
DANNY RIVERO: The underlying reasoning behind this lawsuit is that they're alleging that this policy itself, that the detainers themselves and honoring those detainers, is unconstitutional. They say that it causes someone to be held in custody after they're otherwise able to go free once they've posted bond. But instead of being able to go free, they're then held in the county facility until federal officers are able to actually take them into custody and then start with the deportation proceedings.
Mayor Gimenez, how do you respond to those concerns, that the county's policy to hold people for immigration authorities is unconstitutional?
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Obviously, we believe it is constitutional. And I guess the courts will decide whether it is or not.
President Trump had commended you for leading the way in reversing this policy, which before last year was not to honor these type of detention requests. Walk us through why you decided to honor them.
GIMENEZ: This all actually started under the Obama administration. When we changed the policy, back I believe in 2013, for a couple of years, it was because we were not getting reimbursed for the time that these detainer requests were costing Miami-Dade County. And so the policy was reversed at the time, and we would not honor unless we were actually given the funds by the federal government. In retrospect, it's probably a bad decision to reverse course. Not now. It was actually a bad decision back in 2013. We probably should have just maintained our posture of honoring the requests.
Some people think that somehow Miami-Dade County is involved in immigration enforcement, and we're not. Anybody and everybody who's arrested in Miami-Dade County, their records or their fingerprints their mug shots, etc., go out to a number of other agencies around the United States – one of them being immigration for obvious reasons, if somebody is wanted for murder or something in another state, or by the federal government for some other offense. They would then be aware that we have that individual in our custody. We don't identify anybody as being undocumented. So anybody who ICE says, "Hey we are interested in that person," means that ICE already has that person on their radar.
Is the county being reimbursed from the federal government?
GIMENEZ: We're working with that. But again, the administration actually said that we were a sanctuary city and that our funds were in jeopardy. It started with the Obama administration back in May 2016. And we were, myself and certain commissioners, were working with Washington to reverse that. We were not successful in getting the sanctuary city labeled reversed under the Obama administration. Obviously not under the Trump administration.
This post was updated after the July 27, 2018 episode of The Florida Roundup.