Broward County

Debbie Wasserman Schultz vows to fight Trump’s immigration policies

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, left, discusses President Donald Trump's new immigraiton policy with Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto and Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, left, discusses President Donald Trump's new immigraiton policy with Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto and Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. Sun Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz vowed to fight back against President Donald Trump’s immigration orders and criticized Miami-Dade County commissioners for caving to Trump on sanctuary cities.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, met with city and county officials in Broward on Thursday morning after she held a closed-door briefing with federal immigration officials from multiple agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Wasserman Schultz sought the ICE briefing to gain more clarity about the administration’s immigration plans, but said she walked away with scant information.

“In my 24 years in office I have rarely had a more evasive briefing than the one I just had,” she told local government officials who met with her at a Sunrise government building.

But Wasserman Schultz said that it was clear that the Trump administration plans to “dramatically expand the number and type of undocumented immigrant that is targeted for deportation.”

This week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced rules expanding the categories of people prioritized for removal. It is a broader policy than the one carried out by the Obama administration, which deported more people than previous administrations but prioritized deporting violent criminals.

As a Democrat in the minority in Congress, Wasserman Schultz has little power to fight Trump’s immigration plans. But she said she would fight against funding Trump’s order to hire 10,000 more ICE agents to add to its existing 20,000-member force.

About 450,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, the fifth-largest undocumented population in the United States, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center based on 2014 government estimates. Wasserman Schultz’s district stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade.

Wasserman Schultz said that Trump’s plans to increase immigration enforcement have provoked fear in the community and could cause undocumented immigrants to avoid law enforcement — for example, to report domestic violence — out of fear that contact with government officials will lead to deportation.

“It's going to take us back to the days where undocumented immigrants who are here just to take care of their families and to make their lives better for themselves are going to go back into the shadows,” she said.

Responding to a question from a reporter, Wasserman Schultz criticized a recent vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission on sanctuary cities. The commission upheld a decision by Mayor Carlos Gimenez to reverse a 2013 county policy that stated the county jail would not hold inmates on ICE detainers unless the feds would pay the expenses. Gimenez reversed the policy in January after Trump said he would defund sanctuary cities.

“I think Dade County made a colossal inhumane unacceptable error,” Wasserman Schultz said, adding that commissioners reversed policy out of an “unwarranted fear of losing funds.”

“The fact that the mayor rolled over immediately, and unfortunately the majority of the county commission followed his lead, was an inhumane act and violated the values of our community as a community that supports diversity and embraced our status as a haven for immigrants,” she said.

Three of the nine Miami-Dade commissioners who sided with Gimenez are Democrats.

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this article.

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