Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade turned over 11 people to immigration authorities in week under new policy

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addresses reporters in November after winning reelection to a second four-year term. Three months later, he’s embroiled in a controversy over President Donald Trump’s crackdown on “sanctuary” communities.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addresses reporters in November after winning reelection to a second four-year term. Three months later, he’s embroiled in a controversy over President Donald Trump’s crackdown on “sanctuary” communities. DOUGLAS HANKS

Miami-Dade jails turned over 11 people to federal authorities in the week that followed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s order to resume honoring detention requests for local inmates sought for immigration violations, the county’s Corrections Department said Friday.

The number offers the first glimpse at the consequences of Gimenez’s Jan. 26 order to reverse a 2013 county policy that barred honoring the federal requests unless they involved serious offenders and Washington agreed to pay for the extra days of jail time required for the detentions.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talked about updates to President Donald Trump's immigration executive order during Wednesday's press briefing. According to Spicer, legal permanent residents will now be allowed to enter the United States w

Jonathan Fried, executive director of the WeCount! farmworkers rights group in Homestead, said turning over nearly a dozen people in eight days justified the public alarm over Gimenez’s decision.

“That’s a lot of people,” he said. “I think it means that the mayor’s change of policy is going to have a real impact on the community. It’s going to mean more separations of families. It’s going to mean greater fear.”

Gimenez changed county policy after President Donald Trump instructed federal agencies to withhold grant money from municipalities like Miami-Dade that are considered “sanctuary” communities for not cooperating with immigration authorities.

The Cuban-born Gimenez noted Miami-Dade has been fighting the “sanctuary” label since Barack Obama was president. Gimenez’s Jan. 26 order instructs county jailers to hold suspected immigration violators for an additional 48 hours if requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The order only applies to people already in the custody of a Miami-Dade jail on an unrelated local charge, and Gimenez said the county would never aid Washington in rounding up people on immigration violations.

About 400 people rallied in January 2017 at Miami-Dade’s government headquarters as leaders demanded the county defy President Donald Trump and refuse to extend local jail time for immigrants wanted by federal authorities.

“Miami-Dade Police Department is not, and will not be, an immigration enforcement agency,” he wrote in a letter sent to county commissioners this week. “Our police officers will continue to protect and serve all Miami-Dade County residents, regardless of immigration status.”

While Corrections said last year it received only 174 requests from immigration authorities in 2016, the new numbers from the agency suggest a much quicker pace after the mayor’s policy change.

Chandra Gavin, manager of community affairs for Corrections and Rehabilitation in Miami-Dade, said that in the eight days since Gimenez’s Jan. 26 order, the department has processed 27 requests from ICE, the federal agency that pursues deportations and other sanctions against undocumented people. Sixteen people covered by the requests remain in Miami-Dade custody.

The 27 requests constitute a pace of about three per day. That would result in more than 1,200 requests for the year if the pace continues — far more than the 174 figure cited for 2016.

Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s spokesman, said it would be a mistake to extrapolate a trend from one week’s worth of figures, saying the detention-request numbers will naturally “ebb and flow.”

When Miami-Dade last routinely honored the federal “detainer” requests, the pace was much faster than what the county reported last year. County figures cited in the Dec. 3, 2013, policy change adopted by the County Commission cited 3,262 requests in 2011 and 2,499 in 2012.

Some county officials say the decline came because federal authorities simply got quicker at picking up suspected immigration violators while they’re still in county custody. Even after 2013, corrections staffers would coordinate with immigration authorities over when they expected a local suspect to leave county custody. Immigration officers could then pick up the suspect as he or she left a county jail.

With its reimbursement requirement, the 2013 policy was considered a blanket ban on detainer requests since Washington never met local demands to cover extra detention costs.

But the 2013 policy adopted unanimously by the County Commission also narrowed what detainer requests the county would honor even if paid in full. The adopted policy instructed jails to extend detentions only for people with felony convictions or those facing serious criminal charges.

In his order to the Corrections department on Jan. 26, Gimenez instructed that all detention requests be honored.

On Friday, the County Commission announced a rare special meeting to review the mayor’s policy change. The session is slated for 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami.

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