A Miami-Dade commissioner plans to soften a proposal barring county police from enforcing federal immigration laws, saying she’ll instead ask for a report proving the county department already prohibits that kind of cooperation.
Daniella Levine Cava opted to offer an amended proposal before the original one made it to a committee. Both are scheduled for hearings Wednesday before the commission’s Public Safety and Health Committee.
Her original resolution declares “it is Miami-Dade County’s policy to prohibit County law enforcement officers from performing the functions of federal immigration officers,” as called for in a recent executive order from President Donald Trump. But after meeting with Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s police director on Tuesday, Levine Cava proposed amended language to give the administration 60 days to detail why a new policy isn’t needed.
“They say they already have a policy,” Levine Cava said. “We want to see how they’re implementing it.”
Levine Cava’s proposed resolution offers a legislative reprise to one of the most searing debates in recent memory for the 13-member County Commission, which last month voted to reverse policy and begin accepting detention requests at local jails from immigration authorities.
Gimenez, a Republican who backed Hillary Clinton, ordered the change in late January after Trump promised to withhold funding from so-called “sanctuary” communities that weren’t cooperating with detention requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The president’s Jan. 25 order also called for local police agencies to partner with ICE and “perform the functions of immigration officers.”
The mayor’s Jan. 26 directive on the detention requests unleashed a string of local protests and demonstrations before the commission backed his “detainer” policy. Levine Cava, a Democrat, cast one of the three No votes.
Throughout the debate, Gimenez and police director Juan Perez both insisted publicly that the cooperation would stop at the jails, and that they would never agree to the kind of voluntary partnerships Trump proposed for policy agencies.
The devil is in the details. I believe a report only strengthens my resolution because it tells how that policy is being implemented.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava
“Miami-Dade County police officers have not, are not, will not be immigration officers,” Gimenez said after the commission’s Feb. 17 vote to reverse a 2013 county policy that severely limited which ICE requests county jails would honor. “That is not our job. And we will not act as immigration officers.”
Levine Cava, a lawyer, said the Gimenez administration did not request any changes in her proposed legislation, but that Perez pointed out his department already complies with the policy she wanted adopted. “I think the mayor and the director would like to be trusted that they’re as good as their word,” Levine Cava said.
Her original legislation remains on the agenda for Wednesday’s 1:30 p.m. meeting of the commission’s Public Safety and Health Committee, when it will face a public hearing. An item identified as a substitute was added to the agenda late Tuesday. Committee meetings take place at the Stephen P. Clark government center in downtown Miami.
The new language requires a report within 60 days identifying law-enforcement policies “that relate to immigration” and provide recommendations “to ensure that a separation of duties between Miami-Dade Police Department officers and federal immigration officers is preserved and that Miami-Dade Police Department officers are not performing federal immigration duties.”
Miami-Dade County police officers have not, are not, will not be immigration officers.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez
Cheryl Little, director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, said Levine Cava’s original resolution would help calm fears in Miami-Dade’s immigrant community that the county was shifting toward a pro-Trump stance. The detainer change “was a devastating blow to not just our immigrant community, but to many residents here,” Little said. “Daniella is, I guess, wanting to set the record straight.”
Maria Rodriguez, another advocate who fought Gimenez’s detainer change, said she would welcome a report on how county police address federal immigration laws. “I absolutely think we need clarity around both the policy, and the practice,” said Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
Perez, the police director and an Gimenez appointee, said in a statement Tuesday that his department “enforces criminal laws, not policies” and “will not be involved in sweeps or operations based solely on targeting individuals based on immigration status.
“It is simply not our function,” he said, “and any such involvement disrupts the trust and relationship with many in our community.”
Levine Cava, whose district includes some migrant farm communities of South Dade, said she sees her amended proposal as a better option because it will force the Gimenez administration to outline specific ways it doesn’t cooperating with ICE.
“The devil is in the details,” she said. “I believe a report only strengthens my resolution because it tells how that policy is being implemented.”