Somewhere around 300 immigrant advocates and social justice activists from more than a dozen organizations descended on Miami-Dade County Hall Tuesday afternoon to protest Mayor Carlos Gimenez‘s about-face on complying with federal immigration detention orders at the local level.
And they want him to take it back.
Last week, Gimenez instructed the director of the county’s Department of Corrections to start holding illegal immigrants arrested for unrelated crimes after their local charges are resolved so that U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services can pick them up. Tuesday’s protest, with close to 300 people, was the second in five days.
It was also the first with a list of demands. Community leaders and organizations that signed onto the coalition that protested Tuesday — including Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), United Teachers of Dade, Service Employees International Union, Center for Community Change Action, New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, United Families, Color of Change, Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Emerge Miami, Council on American Islamic Relations, Save Dade, For Our Future, United We Dream, We Count! and iAmerica — presented five tasks for the mayor.
“Our coalition demands that Mayor Carlos Gimenez do the following,” read a statement issued Tuesday evening.
- Immediately withdraw last week’s directive to comply with Trump’s immigration order.
- Work with community stakeholders and legal advocates on additional steps to safeguard against Miami-Dade police officers ever acting as immigration-enforcement agents.
- Commit to working with mayors across the country facing the same threats from the Trump Administration, to present a coordinated response to these harmful and unconstitutional orders.
- Consult with commissioners and stakeholders before complying with any additional orders from the Trump Administration that contradict the laws, traditions and values of Miami-Dade County.
- Dedicate the remainder of his term to ensuring that Miami-Dade remains a welcoming place for all people.
The statement says these measures will help build trust, save tax dollars from the likelihood of lawsuits, “recognize the irreplacable role of immigrants in the economy, society and history of our county,” honor the views of the majority of his constituents, who voted overwhelmingly agaisnt Trump and his policies, and “protect our entire community from the threat of Donald Trump’s hateful and un-American actions.”
Too bad that Gimenez wasn’t there, again (he was out of town during the first protest Friday). Because the protesters had some choice words for him.
“Coward,” was my favorite.
“As a Commissioner tasked with drafting policy that protects our citizens, I am frustrated and disappointed in Mayor Gimenez’ actions to comply with President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee executive order,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said. “Mayor Gimenez had many options to protect our community. Instead of consulting with his Commission and community leaders, Mayor Gimenez has the dubious distinction of being the first Mayor in the country to succumb to President Trump’s threats.
“He didn’t even put up a fight.”
Rosen Gonzalez told Ladra later that evening that she feels the county is a sanctuary county — with or without his blessing. “This is a policy that shows that Gimenez is out of touch with his constituents,” she said, adding that she will present a resolution to the Miami Beach Commission next week offering that city as a sanctuary city (more on that later).
“If Gimenez is not going to do the right thing then let’s do it in Miami Beach,” Rosen Gonzalez said.
But what boggles her mind the most is how quickly Gimenez catapulted. “He didn’t have to. He could have waited with all these other mayors around the country.”
The commissioner speaks of the mayors of New York, Boston, Buffalo, San Francisco, Chicago, Syrcause, Austin and many other U.S. cities that have chosen to question the legality of the federal mandate. She and others talked about how Gimenez couldn’t have possibly forseen all the possible legal, economic and ethical impacts of his decision.
“Mayor Gimenez’ actions have immediate and very real consequences for our schools and our education system,” said Karla Hernandez Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade. “Miami-Dade is a majority immigrant community and by complying with President Trump’s Executive Order, Mayor Gimenez is threatening our ability as educators to provide a quality education and a safe space to all children, regardless of immigration status.
Former Congressman Joe Garcia, who helped run one of the largest refugee programs with the Cuban American National Foundation, said that Gimenez had the opportunity to emulate the late Monsigner Bryan Walsh, who led efforts to bring and relocate Cuban children during Operation Pedro Pan.
“The same way Monsignor Walsh stood up for refugee childfren who had no one and nowhere to go, today those of us who benefited from his vision and courage should also stand up and fight for those who have no one and nowhere to go,” said Garcia, who was born in Miami Beach to Cuban parents.
Gimenez was presumably doing the radio and TV rounds Tuesday afternoon, but he’s been dodging the live audience for days. He’s going to have to face the music sooner or later. Probably next Tuesday when Ladra suspects that Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava will make her follow up request an official item on the commission agenda or someone else will put forth something supporting the mayor’s flip. The public will have to be given an opportunity to speak.
Maybe Julio Calderon, an undocumented young man who is a member of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, will be able to address him personally.
“I have helped contribute to this city in many ways, including paying taxes, and I am devastated that Mayor Gimenez is willing to scapegoat the immigrant community for political gain,” said Calderon said Tuesday.
“Deporting me back to Honduras is the equivalent of a life sentence, because there is no guarantee I would survive the violent conditions of my native country. This is personal for me; but for Mayor Gimenez, playing politics with Trump outweighs the value of my life.”