Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez explained Friday why his jurisdiction became the first to change its policy on holding illegal immigrants for the federal government after President Trump this week moved to slash funds to so-called “sanctuary” cities.
Giménez said there was no point in jeopardizing law enforcement grants.
“It’s really not worth the risk of losing millions of dollars to the residents of Miami-Dade County in discretionary funds from the feds.”
“It’s really not worth the risk of losing millions of dollars to the residents of Miami-Dade County in discretionary funds from the feds,” he told CNN.
Trump praised the change in a tweet on Thursday: “Miami-Dade Mayor drops sanctuary policy. Right decision. Strong!”
But Giménez said he never considered Miami-Dade to be a sanctuary city. He said the County Commission in 2014 passed a resolution instructing jailers not to hold illegal immigrants without receiving verification that the federal government would reimburse the county for the cost.
“Before that time, we would honor the request of the federal government that we would detain inmates that they wanted without regard to the compensation to the country,” he said. “[We changed our policy] because it cost us about a half a million dollars over a number of years in costs that had not been reimbursed by the federal government.”
Giménez stands in sharp contrast to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and other jurisdictions with strident sanctuary polices. Mayors of those cities have vowed to resist Trump. The mayor of Boston even said he would make City Hall available to protect illegal immigrants “unjustly” targeted for removal.
Giménez said the Justice Department included his county on a list of potential sanctuary jurisdictions last year. But he said his government never has withheld information from immigration authorities, as scores of other jurisdictions do.
Whenever police arrest someone, he said, authorities put out the information to other law enforcement agencies. If there is a warrant from another police agency, Miami-Dade authorities honor it. The same is true if Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials determine the prisoner is an illegal immigrant who should be deported.
“Miami-Dade County has never withheld any information from the federal government,” Giménez said. “When somebody is arrested here, we provide the information to the federal government of the people who have been arrested … We don’t protect that information of anybody, for anybody.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette local jurisdictions already receive partial reimbursement for incarceration costs through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. She said in large metro areas like Miami, ICE agents typically take custody of illegal immigrants within hours.
“This is a win for the Trump administration,” she said. “If the Trump administration has not made it brutally clear early on … a lot of the sanctuary cities would have gone about business as usual and figure it was just an empty threat by the feds.”
Vaughan said it also represents a victory for the approach of Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who pushed the Justice Department to threaten to withhold funds from the 10 largest sanctuary jurisdictions.