Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor says 2013 policy on immigration detentions was a “mistake”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez during a press conference on Nov. 09, 2016, in County Hall.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez during a press conference on Nov. 09, 2016, in County Hall. DOUGLAS HANKS

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says the county made a mistake in 2013 when it decided to defy most requests from Immigration authorities to extend detentions of local inmates sought for deportation.

Gimenez reversed that policy in January, citing a promise by President Donald Trump to strip federal funding from municipalities like Miami-Dade offering “sanctuary” to immigration violators. Despite some of the most intense protests in recent memory for Miami-Dade, the County Commission endorsed Gimenez’s change and voted to begin honoring all detention requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In an interview published Tuesday by the Washington Post, Gimenez said the 2013 policy — which he created as mayor under the direction of the County Commission — was an error.

“Hindsight being 20/20, I think that probably was a mistake,” Gimenez told the Post. “We should have never altered that policy.”

Gimenez’s Jan. 26 directive ending the 2013 policy brought instant praise from Trump, who called it “Strong!” on Twitter. And it spared Miami-Dade when the Trump administration occasionally listed crimes allegedly committed by people subject to detention requests that were denied by “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Miami-Dade’s new policy also drew charges that the immigrant-majority county was abandoning its tradition of embracing the foreign-born in order to curry favor with the new president. Citing Trump’s funding threat to sanctuary cities across the country, the Post noted: “Miami-Dade County was the first to retreat.”

In his Post interview, the Cuban-born Republican mayor who backed Hillary Clinton last year said Miami-Dade would not accept Trump’s call for local police agencies to help enforce immigration laws. Gimenez said county police officers would never ask about immigration status, and that people would be turned over to ICE only after they’re booked on unrelated local charges or otherwise get caught up in the county’s jail system.

“If you’re a law-abiding citizen and you’re in Miami-Dade County, you have nothing to fear from the Miami-Dade Police Department,” he said. “That’s the best that we can do.”