Miami-Dade Commission votes in favor of mayor's order to comply with federal immigration holds

34 inmates with immigration detainers from Jan 27 to Feb. 9

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor , Glenna Milberg - Reporter , Michael Putney - Senior Political Reporter , Erica Rakow - Reporter

MIAMI - Miami-Dade County commissioners voted 9-3 Friday to continue complying with federal immigration holds for inmates at county jails.

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Esteban "Steve" Bovo called a special meeting Friday morning to discuss Mayor Carlos Gimenez's recent order for county jails to begin complying with federal immigration guidelines.

Some people in the audience stormed out of the meeting after the vote was announced, chanting, "Shame on you."

Those who voted in favor of Gimenez's executive order included Bovo, Bruno Barreiro, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Sally Heyman, Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto and Audrey Edmonson.

The commissioners who voted against the order were Daniella Levine-Cava, Xavier Suarez and Jean Monestime.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan called out sick Friday, disappointing those who were hoping she would vote against the order.

Still, many people lined up early, hoping to score a ticket for one of 260 seats inside the commission chambers. Many also signed up to address Gimenez.

Those who were in support of undocumented immigrants and against Gimenez's order pinned on white flowers as a sign of solidarity.

"We have to acknowledge that Miami-Dade is the county with the second largest immigrant population in the country, and how is it that this county is not fighting to keep its residents safe, to keep its residents protected," Paola Calvo Florido, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said.

Gimenez's executive order last month sparked protests outside County Hall, as some county residents accused Gimenez of caving into President Donald Trump, who threatened to cut federal funding to places that deemed themselves a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants.

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez disagreed with the mayor.

"There's no specific threat on specific funds that will be taken away, and I would characterize this as simply appeasement of an administration that's not even a month," Rodriguez said. "The only reason to pass this and to ratify the decision of the mayor is honestly just to stay in the good graces of the Trump administration, and I see no other reason."

Gimenez's executive order reversed the commission's 2013 decision to stop complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement's requests for 48-hour holds for undocumented immigrants who were arrested.

County officials said they stopped complying because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to hold inmates, which the feds did not reimburse.

Gimenez said county jails will begin complying with ICE requests for immigration holds, but told Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg in January that local authorities do not know who is undocumented and will not be asking for anyone's immigration status.

According to a report presented at Friday's commission meeting, 34 inmates have had immigration detainers from Jan. 27 to Feb. 9.

The inmates' charges range from first-degree murder to DUI without a valid driver's license. Other charges included battery, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, organized fraud, drug possession, grand theft, sexual battery on a child and child neglect.

"Whether they're here illegally or not, immigrant or not, we do not enforce immigration laws in the Miami-Dade Police Department," Director Juan Perez said. "And I don't know of any police department in Miami-Dade County, period, that enforces the policies of the federal government."

Of the 34 inmates, 10 had only been arrested one time in Miami-Dade County. All others had a previous arrest history.

John King, who supports Gimenez's order, said he supports immigrants, but also supports the federal government.

"I believe in supporting the federal government (and) I believe in supporting the president," he said. "I love my country (and) I don't hate anybody."

Levine-Cava had mailed a letter of concern to the mayor about how to honor the requests fairly, without jeopardizing the security of a largely immigrant community. 

"Even if they are here lawfully, they will be living in fear. There will be some reprisals that any little infraction can lead to problems," Levine Cava told Local 10 News last month."There was also a broadening of the kinds of immigration status that would trigger interest (under the Trump administration), so that's really the fear."

An attorney who spoke at Friday's meeting said some of his undocumented clients are choosing to stay in jail because they are scared to get picked up by ICE if they post bail.

"We are an inclusive county," Gimenez said. "We are a county of immigrants. I am an immigrant to this great country. We are also a country of laws."

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