Fabiola Santiago

Caving in to Trump, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sells out this city of immigrants

In December, Mayor Carlos Gimenez was warmly greeting immigrant children asking him to keep Miami a sanctuary. But now, he’s acquiescing to President Trump’s order to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.
In December, Mayor Carlos Gimenez was warmly greeting immigrant children asking him to keep Miami a sanctuary. But now, he’s acquiescing to President Trump’s order to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Miami plays in the league of world-class cities for one distinctive reason: the cosmopolitan vitality that has risen organically from its immigrant soul. We are a beacon to the Americas — and of the Americas.

How can the mayor of Miami-Dade so hastily sell out our essence?

Miami-Dade has seldom flaunted its immigrant sanctuary-county status because, unlike others where immigrants aren’t a majority, it didn’t need to do so. Ours was — and still is, no matter what concessions Mayor Carlos Gimenez makes to President Donald Trump — a de facto sanctuary county.

From the skyscrapers of Brickell Avenue and Aventura to the colorful, trendy streets of Wynwood and Hialeah — and in every neighborhood you don’t readily see — the immigrant stamp is embedded in the region’s DNA.

Immigrants are us.

Protesters gather at the Stephen P. Clark Center to protest against Miami-Dade Mayor’s Carlos Gimenez decision to effectively abandon the county’s stance as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants.

But without consultation with city and county leaders, the Republican Cuban-American mayor — whose son, it should be noted, has had business dealings with Trump — instructed jails to “fully cooperate” with Trump’s executive order that local governments honor immigration detentions from federal authorities or lose federal grant money.

He shames us.

He forgot that he, too, was born elsewhere and only became a naturalized American at age 21.

He forgot Miami’s place as a unique, multilingual city, where immigrant is not necessarily synonymous with poverty, but with the best outcomes of the quintessential pursuit of the American Dream. We work hard, we rise. We help others rise with us. Here, immigrants are as mainstream as is speaking another language. The native U.S.-born, whether here for generations or just arrived from the Northeast or the Midwest, thrive in this atmosphere of inclusion.

Trump’s executive order has nothing to do with reality. The number of immigrants coming to the United States peaked a decade ago and has been in decline since then. But the nearly 59 million immigrants who have arrived in the past 50 years (among them Trump’s Eastern European wives) have reshaped the nation’s ethnic and racial composition, the Pew Research Center notes.

Trump’s objective is to make the United States not the diverse, multicultural country it already is, but to turn back the clock to the ugly history of white supremacy.

The “again” in his campaign motto gives it away.

“Make America Great Again” is code for “Make America White Again.” He has backed that up with mostly white male appointments to the highest levels of his administration with only select token minorities thrown in to quell the criticism. And now, here come the executive orders, which the new president so rabidly deplored of the Obama administration. Trump not only threatens sanctuary cities, but institutes a Muslim ban — only from countries where he has no business dealings — without congressional approval. Both directives are moves that are possibly unconstitutional and are being challenged, including by the mayors of major cities and Miami’s former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who wrote a Miami Herald op-ed.

Gimenez’s hasty capitulation to Trump is only one of the ways in which the mayor — and his echo-chamber county commission — is turning Miami-Dade into an inhospitable place to live.

It’s not the immigrants that are the problem here, but the over-development that brings more and more choking traffic, which in turn gives rise to more and more aggressive people and noise pollution disruptive to once quiet suburbs.

Contempt for the resident is the order of the day. The only winners and heroes are the money-makers. A city built on the hard work and dreams of immigrants doesn’t collude to make them scapegoats for the nation’s problems.

But maybe we’re not so worldly, after all.

And, without our immigrant soul, we’re a charmless city.

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