This weekend, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez did an interview on a local TV station and decided to blame me for something I didn’t do. This Trump-like attitude towards his constituents is not surprising after all he’s done in the last month, but it’s scary to realize how close our immigrant Mayor wants to be to an anti-immigrant president.
Here’s what happened.
In light of Donald Trump’s threat to cut hundreds of millions of federal dollars from cities who refuse to force local police to enforce immigration law, Miami-Dade County became the first jurisdiction to announce it will change its immigration policy and comply with the order.
Other cities all across the U.S. have vowed to defy Trump and not cooperate with federal immigration agencies. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to destroy records his municipalities hold on undocumented immigrants if necessary. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has promised continued support for immigrant communities and Washington State has even filed suit against the Muslim Ban which the Trump Administration also instituted via executive order.
Not Miami-Dade County.
The fact that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was the first in the country to capitulate to Trump is an embarrassment of epic proportions. In a multicultural city like Miami, made up of immigrants from all over the world, the fact that our mayor didn’t even bother to put up a semblance of a fight should anger all its residents.
I got a chance to confront Mayor Gimenez at a legislative Miami-Dade Delegation hearing. Alongside two other activists, we held up signs asking the mayor to protect immigrant families while he gave his presentation. Afterwards we got a chance to speak to him but unfortunately he would not budge on his position.
Since 2013, Miami-Dade has refused to indefinitely detain inmates who are undocumented. This is not based on principle, but because the federal government doesn’t fully reimburse the county for the expense. The Mayor made the case that Miami-Dade County never claimed to be a sanctuary and that he did not want to lose millions worth of federal funds, although it’s unclear how much of this money would actually be affected by the grants detailed in Trump’s executive order.
I told the mayor that he had jumped the gun on the issue for a number of reasons. I told him that he himself was an immigrant, a Cuban exile from Havana whose family had fled political persecution and had the privilege of growing up in a system that allowed him to thrive. His personal experience should remind him what immigrants can accomplish and contribute to this country when given the opportunity.
The most frustrating part of this ordeal is the fact that the Mayor has allies and a good case to make if he were to challenge Trump on the legality of his order. City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has criticized Gimenez, calling his decision premature and irresponsible while stating that the City of Miami will not comply.
If Gimenez chose to defy the Trump administration, he has legal precedent to do so by using the case of South Dakota v. Dole in which the Supreme Court considered the limitations the Constitution places on Congress when it uses its authority to influence the individual states in areas of authority normally reserved to them. The Court established a five-point rule for considering the constitutionality of expenditure cuts of this type. The fifth rule orders “the condition must not be coercive.” That would give legal ground to challenge the Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Towards the end of our conversation, I told the Mayor that this will be a chapter of American history that will be remembered very unkindly and that unless he changed course, he would be seen as one of its enablers.
A few days later, Mayor Gimenez attacked me on channel 10 and falsely claimed that I started rumors of ICE checkpoints in Miami. It is pretty sad that the Mayor is taking a page straight out of Trump’s book by attempting to intimidate immigrant right activists, but we are not scared and will not back down. While the Mayor is playing politics and bullying those of us who speak up for our families and friends, immigrants in our community are being sent to ICE detainment and families are anxious.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez, it’s time to step up and fight for the immigrant community in Miami-Dade County.
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