Miami-Dade commissioners sidestepped creating legislation to reject President Donald Trump’s effort to deputize police as immigration officers, opting instead for a report on county policies barring that kind of cooperation.
The compromise reached between Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the Democrat who first proposed a blanket prohibition against Trump’s proposal, and the administration of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, may not be final.
Levine Cava emphasized at a committee meeting Wednesday that she may try again to impose restrictions on officers through legislation if the report from police Director Juan Perez doesn’t detail enough protections against Miami-Dade helping enforce federal immigration laws.
This is a time of great fear and great insecurity.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava
She cited anxiety among undocumented immigrants in the Miami area after the county’s recent decision to extend detention times for inmates sought by immigration officers — a policy change designed to mollify the Trump White House.
“Talking to the director, I learned that we have many police policies in place that already address this, and others that are more informal,” Levine Cava said during the afternoon meeting of the commission’s Public Safety committee. “I trust him and the mayor at his word. But as we’ve heard … it takes a lot more to reassure the public. This is a time of great fear and great insecurity.”
Levine Cava’s amended resolution also requires the administration to notify the 13-member commission if the county is ever asked to sign a federal agreement giving Miami-Dade officers the authority to enforce immigration laws. Trump called for expanding those kind of partnerships in his Jan. 25 executive order on immigration, which also promised funding cuts to communities offering “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants.
Miami-Dade’s prior policy, to reject most detainer requests at county jails, earned it so-called “sanctuary” status in a 2016 Justice Department report, and Gimenez said the change was needed to protect federal funding. But he rejected Trump’s call for voluntary partnerships with local police agencies.
“That is not our job,” Gimenez said on Feb. 17, when the commission backed his new detainer policy. “And we will not act as immigration officers.”
We don’t want to limit ourselves and give blanket statements.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez
Levine Cava cast one of three no votes against the new detention policy. Her proposal this week to have the commission bar local police from cooperating with the Trump administration on immigration enforcement would have meant a public repudiation of the White House at a time when the Gimenez administration hopes to secure billions of dollars of transportation funding for an expanded rail system.
In an interview, Perez said a blanket ban on Miami-Dade police enforcing immigration laws may constrict future efforts to cooperate with federal law enforcement. While he said no such agreements exist, Perez said he could imagine a partnership being required if Miami-Dade, for example, joined a task force dedicated to human trafficking.
“We don’t want to limit ourselves and give blanket statements,” he said. “But we want to define our role in law enforcement, as opposed to the role of federal immigration enforcement of routine detainers.”
Perez, a Gimenez appointee, met privately with Levine Cava this week and suggested a report on current policies instead of having the commission impose a blanket prohibition on immigration enforcement, Levine Cava told the committee.
Levine Cava’s original resolution would have declared “Miami-Dade’s policy to prohibit County law enforcement officers from performing the functions of federal immigration officers pursuant to the Executive Order” from Trump. She swapped that resolution out for one ordering Perez to submit a report within 60 days “to ensure … that Miami-Dade Police Department officers are not performing federal immigration duties.”
She and fellow Public Safety members Sally Heyman and Jose “Pepe” Diaz endorsed the second resolution, which moves onto the full board for final approval. The vote followed a string of speakers urging a tough, public stand against Trump following the searing debate over Miami-Dade’s embrace of “detainer” requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We have the opportunity to take one fear off the list of so many residents in this county who are living in fear,” said Carlos Odio, director of the Florida Alliance, a liberal advocacy group. “Don’t pass up the opportunity you have to answer the question: Is this policy or is it not policy?”