MIAMI – After President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for not protecting undocumented migrants from deportation, the mayor went out for a bike ride Thursday.
The Cuban-American former firefighter ignored Trump's tweet and went out to celebrate the opening of a new bike lane. Trump and Sessions have been pressuring cities choosing to limit their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"I didn't look for any praise or anything," Gimenez said.
"Sanctuary" cities follow the spirit of America's founding principles as a nation of immigrants and refuse to detain undocumented migrants perceived as refugees to help ICE deport them. In some communities, religious leaders view protecting refugees, even when they are undocumented, as a moral obligation.
While profiling undocumented migrants as the root of America's ills, Trump vilified cities refusing to cooperate with ICE and fired back with federal funding cuts. Immigration advocates in Miami-Dade criticized Gimenez for giving into the pressure.
"We applied for a number of federal grants here in Miami-Dade County," Gimenez said, "and we want to make sure that we are eligible for all of it."
Gimenez asked the Department of Justice to change Miami-Dade's status and ordered the Department of Corrections to start complying with requests from immigration authorities.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Gimenez said. "We are talking about people that are being arrested. Most of them are repeat offenders."
Immigration advocates disagree. They report an increase in separation of families and a feeling of terror among students and the undocumented community who they say now live in fear under the Trump administration.
"I leave my home at 5 a.m., I say good bye to my mom and dad and I tell them I love them, because don't know if I will see them again when I come home at night," said Tatiana, a 20-year-old from Honduras. "We work hard so I can go to school, and my dream is to take them out of poverty. We are not criminals, but I know that we can be treated like that at any moment. Do you know what it's like to live with that fear? It's horrible."
Raul Quiroga, an undocumented migrant from Argentina, had been in the U.S. for 15 years and was arrested in North Miami after immigration authorities responded to a fender-bender crash in May. He is the father of a teen born in Argentina and a boy who was born in Miami. He remains at Krome Detention Center.
"I found out after school. My mom called me sobbing. At first, I thought my dad was in the hospital because of his gallbladder problem, but then mom said he got detained," Quiroga's son said. "He is an honest person. I never thought something like that would happen to us."
California, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont have 364 counties and 39 cities belonging to the sanctuary movement. Officials and police departments there choose to cooperate with their communities instead of the federal government.
"If my neighbor is getting beat up at night, do you think we are going to call the cops? No way," Tatiana said. "People in Miami are doing their best to go unnoticed."
Sessions, who says he is concerned about all "illegals," wants Chicago and other cities around the country to do as Gimenez did. But he and Trump are getting a cold shoulder from Gimenez on Twitter.
Gimenez released a statement critical of Trump's reaction to the tragedy in Charlottesville just as he was hosting an attorney general who has been dogged by allegations of racism.
In his statement, Gimenez added that Miami-Dade is Florida's most diverse community with over 60 percent of our 2.7 million residents having been born outside the U.S.
"There is no ambiguity for Miamians," Gimenez said in his statement. "We draw strength from our diversity and reject the hatred."
Gimenez then urged Trump to condemn white supremacists and their actions, which "serve to only divide and instill fear among Americans rather than promote love and understanding."