It was an odd thing to watch as speaker after speaker at Tuesday’s Miami-Dade Commission meeting be silenced — their mics actually cut off — and, in some cases escorted out of the chambers. Disturbingly odd. Chillingly odd.
Members of the community had gone to speak on Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s directive Jan. 26 to the corrections department, telling them to start holding illegal immigrants who have federal detainer requests even after they post bond or are released at arraignment. Many people were offended and vowed to fight back. Hundreds have protested twice at County Hall — but none of the county electeds were there to hear them.
Tuesday was their first chance to speak to our elected leaders about something that they felt was of vital importance.
Until Bovo put a kibosh on that.
The chairman made an announcement at the beginning of the meeting: Public comments would be limited only to those items on the agenda. He closed the public comments saying that it was “important to get the business before us done and not turn this into a circus.”
The “circus” he said, will be on Feb. 17.
“We set an entire day aside for them to come and speack on the detention issue or against Trump or whatever they want,” Bovo later told Ladra, adding that it was the first time in his memory they set aside a special meeting for anything that was not a budget matter.
“It’s their right to be heard and by giving them a special meeting, we are giving them that,” said the chairman, who has already publicly supported the mayor’s decision.
“I know this item has people all fired up. This is a passionate, controversial item. I feel the passion. And I want to give them a forum,” Bovo said, adding that the separate meeting next Friday complies with the county’s obligation to provide a “reasonable opportunity to be heard.”
Later, on NBC6, Gimenez sort of shrugged his shoulders and said “They can say whatever they want on the 17th.” He did not sound like he would listen. He sounds like a man with a mind made up.
More than a dozen people wearing white flowers pinned to their clothing spoke Tuesday against the measure anyway… sort of (only one Miami Trump volunteer spoke in favor). They couched their message in words dripping with double meaning to support two other measures on the agenda that (1) provide for citations rather than arrests of juveniles on first-time misdemeanors and (2) prohibit the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay a fine for some low-income drivers. Either one could be seen as a move to help protect illegal immgrants and undocumented youth from the consequences of the mayor’s new groove. The speakers spoke slowly, choosing words carefully in many instances, to get their subliminal message across.
Brian Hunker told them it was his first commission meeting. “I’ve never been politically active in my life so I guess in some ways just being here is sort of evidence that I’ve become motivated to participate and I hope you all take notice,” Hunker said, speaking in favor of the resolution to not arrest juveniles.
“It shows a wise exercise and foresight on behalf of the commission to prevent the systemic criminalization and incarcelation of well-meaning members of our community.”
“People’s lives should not be ruined if they’ve done nothing wrong. We don’t want to ruin people’s lives, whether its putting them in jail or sending them some place else,” said a gringo named Glen (didn’t catch his last name), who was careful not to use the taboo terms that had gotten people tossed already as he urged commissioners to extend that welfare to “a group of folks who are prevalent in Miami-Dade who I cannot mention by name.”
Because anyone who uttered the word “immigrant” was cut-off and, some, escorted out of chambers when they refused to stop talking even after the mic was turned off. Curiously, the word “undocumented” — which isn’t the same thing — was said at least twice without a reaction from Bovo.
“Arresting our youth is harmful to our community and it has very serious consequences, especially for undocumented youth and its something we cannot divorce from the issue,” said Maria Angelica Rodriguez, who was not interrupted by the chairman. “Please support our youth, of which undocumented youth are also affected.”
Gaby Garcia Vera, an LGBT activist, was unfazed when he asked Gimenez not to leave because any issue having to do with law enforcement would affect illegal immigrants. “I will not sit in fear of this commission to say the word immigrant,” he said before he was cut off and led out as the audience cheered and some recorded it on their cell phones.
“We need to talk about community relations… This is not just about numbers,”
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