Gimenez should have pushed back against Trump’s attack on ‘sanctuary cities’

Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade Government Center to protest Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to comply with Donald Trump’s executive order.
Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade Government Center to protest Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to comply with Donald Trump’s executive order.

I consider Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez my friend. I have supported him for many years; first as my city manager, then as a candidate for county commissioner and mayor. I am, however, disappointed by his actions in bowing to President Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities.

While other mayors have taken an approach that protects their communities, Mayor Gimenez has rushed into action to please the president, betraying our community’s long history of welcoming immigrants.

No one is suggesting that we allow criminal illegal aliens to roam free through our streets. When someone without legal status is a threat to national security or a suspected felon, local law enforcement agencies should and do cooperate with federal immigration officials. To suggest otherwise is plain demagoguery.

My opposition stems from the Mayor not considering the following:

▪ Local governments have no legal obligation to engage in federal immigration enforcement actions and often find themselves legally liable when they do. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government possesses “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration.” It has also held that local law enforcement agents do not have authority to stop or detain people for suspected violations of civil immigration law.

The question is to what extent cities should act in concert with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws. The only mandated cooperation is the sharing of information, which Miami-Dade County already does, making us fully compliant with federal law. Federal law does not compel the detention of persons, or detainers, as mandated by the mayor’s order. Thus, the mayor has gone beyond what the law mandates only to please the president.

▪ No one knows exactly what a “sanctuary county” is. There is no single definition of what a “sanctuary county” or city is, and no one can know with any certainty whether a local jurisdiction is a sanctuary or not. In fact, the mayor has stated that he does not believe we are a sanctuary county at all. The mayor’s order “protects” us from a label that may not apply.

▪ The validity of the president’s executive order should be questioned — that is how democracies work.

Many eminent legal scholars have called the president’s executive order ambiguous, overly broad, and open to legal challenges. Mayor Gimenez’s argument that this is an economic matter fails because no one knows which, if any, federal funds are at risk.

Mayor Gimenez obviously did not seek a legal opinion on this matter. He also did not rely on our congressional delegation for advice. I’m sure they would fight to prevent any loss of federal funds to our community.

When the president tells cities to obey him or face his wrath, it is the mayor’s duty to at least question him. Democracy is not the president saying jump, and Mayor Gimenez asking how high.

The truth is that instead of giving it careful thought as mayors from throughout the country are doing, Mayor Gimenez acted in haste to become the only mayor in the United States so far to bow down to the president’s order. He did so even before the ink was dry.

Mayors understand that local law enforcement must tailor policies that strengthen community safety and policing. These policies recognize that police need the trust of the entire community, ensuring that immigrant victims and witnesses of crimes will cooperate with police. Miami’s late police chief John Timoney and I believed that to keep our community safe, we must encourage all residents work with law enforcement, not hide from it.

Finally, Mayor Gimenez and I both came to this country as refugees, without legal status, and we became Americans. Fifty years later we became mayors. Had mayors back then acted as Mayor Gimenez has now, we may not have had that chance.

Miami is a city built on the hopes and aspirations of immigrants. Our mayor must be a leader, not a follower. Yet, through his actions, Mayor Gimenez has betrayed our essence and the very principles that define us as immigrants and Americans.

Manny Diaz, an attorney, is former mayor of the city of Miami.

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