Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor says of sanctuary change: 'I did a lot less than you thought I did'

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez during an appearance on a Fox News town hall on immigration under President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez during an appearance on a Fox News town hall on immigration under President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Miami Herald

Before a national television audience, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez minimized reversing county policy for extending the detentions of county inmates sought for deportation by federal authorities.

During a brief appearance on a Fox News Town Hall in Ponte Vedra on immigration under President Donald Trump, Gimenez defended his controversial directive to undo a 2013 county policy and begin accepting all detention requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He highlighted a requirement in the 2013 policy that Miami-Dade only honor some detention requests if ICE agreed to pay for the extra jail time.

“I did a lot less than you thought I did,” Gimenez said during an interview with Fox host Martha MacCallum, referring to what the mayor said he tells supporters and detractors of his Jan. 26 order. “We were requesting reimbursement from the federal government for detainer requests. What I did is I said we no longer need to have that voucher from the federal government saying they’re going to pay us for our costs for detaining these people of interest to Immigration. That’s all we did.”

While Gimenez’s directive makes jails honor all detention requests, the 2013 policy adopted by the County Commission limited Miami-Dade jails to honoring detention requests for convicted felons or people facing charges serious enough to be ineligible for release on bond. Even then, Miami-Dade was only to honor the requests if ICE agreed to pay detention costs.

Because ICE generally refused to cover the county’s detention costs in the years leading up to the 2013 policy change, the reimbursement requirement was considered the end of Miami-Dade honoring “detainer” requests.

After the Fox event, Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández wrote: “Miami-Dade County has always collaborated with federal immigration authorities. The mayor’s statement was reaffirming that fact.”

In defending his Jan. 26 directive in prior public appearances, Gimenez has generally focused on the reimbursement requirement. In a recent interview, the mayor explained his approach by saying the reimbursement provision was the “guiding force” behind the original policy.

[Read the original Miami Herald report on Mayor Gimenez’s Jan. 26 directive on detention requests.]

Gimenez, a Republican who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, issued his directive a day after Trump published an executive order demanding federal funds be stripped from communities offering “sanctuary” from immigration enforcement. Miami-Dade was considered a possible sanctuary community in a 2016 Justice Department report under the Obama administration.

In the wake of the threat, Gimenez argued it made sense for Miami-Dade to drop its demand for reimbursement if it faced a White House that might strip millions in federal aid or hold back even more in future grants. The detention orders are limited to 48 hours, plus weekends and holidays, in order to give ICE officers more time to apprehend someone flagged during the process of being fingerprinted on local charges. The County Commission endorsed Gimenez’s directive in a 9 to 3 vote on Friday.

“By doing that,” Gimenez told the Fox audience, “it basically took us off the list of being a sanctuary city. Miami-Dade has never thought of itself as a sanctuary city.”

In a statement, the head of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party, Juan Cuba said of Gimenez’s Fox appearance: “Mayor Gimenez once again misleads the public so he can get in Donald Trump’s good graces…”