Fabiola Santiago

Sessions threw himself a sanctuary-city victory party in Miami. Only Gimenez showed up

Miami Dade-County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, second from left, joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan as they arrived for a conference.
Miami Dade-County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, second from left, joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan as they arrived for a conference. pportal@miamiherald.com

As if swift, at-your-service county support for the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies weren’t shameful enough, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw himself a victory party in Miami.

Using the international seaport as backdrop, Sessions showed the country what a $500,000 federal grant to local police can accomplish: Bringing the successful quintessential city of immigrants and exiles to its knees.

Look, he seemed to be saying, these good citizens are fine with turning in their own. What upstanding Americans.

What a dark day in the Magic City.

Sessions used his podium to propagate the myth that immigrants are responsible for high crime rates — and that sanctuary cities and counties aid and abet them. And he went unchallenged, when statistics and studies have shown that crime is significantly lower in sanctuary counties, and most recently, that murder rates have gone up in cities that cooperate with federal authorities on immigration.

The top lawman in the land used Miami’s declining crime rate to point the finger at Chicago in a comparison that made no sense. Both cities have been plagued in the last several years by gang killings and gun violence that have nothing to do with undocumented immigrants, but with the disparities that keep black communities stuck in a cycle of poverty, despair and crime.

Deliberate ignorance from Sessions, a former Alabama senator denied a federal judgeship for his controversial record on civil-rights issues, is to be expected. But from Cuban-American elected officials who should feel nothing but sympathy for other immigrants and understand their struggle?

Appalling.

How did we get here?

No more sanctuary designation for Miami-Dade, Sessions proudly affirmed, praising the decision by the county’s Cuban-born mayor, Carlos Gimenez — merely a week after Donald Trump took office — to end a three-year-old county policy to release from local jails people who had served their time instead of holding them for immigration authorities. I guess it was okay back then for the Republican mayor and the Republican Cuban-American county commissioners to protect immigrants accused of crimes when it was President Obama deporting criminals.

But under their party’s man in the White House, it’s another story.

The county is now honoring all immigration detainer requests — and there’s no distinction between a first-time minor offense and a serious criminal act. That some of the accused haven’t even gone to trial and end up with detention requests is of no concern. All are turned over to ICE for deportation without an iota of care if the person is providing for U.S.-born children or if the person previously had an exemplary record. No room for nuance. The word of the day is compliance — even if as a result you tear apart families, and a community too.

The commission, which serves a county that 1.6 million Hispanics call home, backed Gimenez’s controversial move 9-3. I suppose we should interpret the fact that commissioners didn’t show up to hobnob with Sessions as a sign that there’s at least a shred of dignity left. Their contrition, however, is more likely motivated by the 2018 elections when county, state house and and senate seats are up for grabs. A photo-op with a man many see as representative of the old, racist southern order is not a campaign enhancement.

Gimenez, on the other hand, is a lame duck.

He did their bidding, dutifully representing while wearing his trademark snarky smile.

The Sessions sanctuary-city victory lap couldn’t have come at a more revolting time. We’re now a nation led by a president who passionately defends white supremacists and excuses the kind of hatred that fueled the death of a young woman and the injuries of 19 others at a Charlottesville rally as having “two sides.”

And here, on this side, was his attorney general patting Miami in the back when he should’ve been in Charlottesville consoling the parents of Heather Heyer at her memorial.

Hatred is the kind of thing from which we used to feel protected and immune in Miami’s multiracial, multicultural cocoon. But, under the current political leadership, we’d be fools to believe that anymore.

  Comments