The children of local undocumented immigrants on Tuesday urged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to have a “change of heart” on detaining local inmates sought by immigration authorities, a policy decried as appeasing President Donald Trump.
“We will not give up,” Elena Marquez, 17, said during a Valentine’s Day press conference outside County Hall, flanked by fellow teens and children wearing paper hearts with jagged lines through them. “Our wish is for Mayor Gimenez to have a change of heart. And do what is right.”
It was the latest protest against Gimenez’s Jan. 26 order reversing a 2013 county policy that had Miami-Dade declining to honor “detainer” requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The day before Gimenez’s order, Trump warned he would withhold federal aid from so-called “sanctuary” communities that don’t cooperate with ICE. The detainer requests ask local jails to hold people an extra two days — plus holidays and weekends — when they’re booked on local charges and are being sought for possible immigration violations.
The young group of activists, escorted by County Hall sergeants at arms, delivered dozens of handmade valentines to Gimenez’s 29th floor offices — cards with messages that included “I Love My Family” and “I Love My Community Do You???”
Marquez, of Homestead, said her parents came to the United States from Guatemala and live in the area illegally. As she spoke during the press conference, 11-year-old Leah Cayasso stood nearby, facing a row of television cameras filming the event three days before county commissioners are slated to meet Friday to review the mayor’s actions.
“My parents are undocumented people,” said Cayasso, a sixth-grader at Citrus Grove Middle. “Donald Trump thinks they’re very bad people and criminals. And they’re not.”
The same group delivered Christmas cards to the mayor in December with a similar message, at a time when immigrant advocacy groups were bracing for a crackdown on “sanctuary” communities by the incoming administration. Gimenez was not in his office to receive the dissenting valentines.
Mike Hernández, Gimenez’s spokesman, said the young protesters were misled by people trying to link the mayor’s detention policy with a false notion that county police will be rounding up undocumented immigrants.
“What’s heartbreaking on this Valentine’s Day is that some people in this community are misrepresenting Mayor Gimenez’s executive order,” he said. “As Mayor Gimenez has said repeatedly, Miami-Dade police officers will not enforce federal immigration laws.”