Miami-Dade Will Abandon 'Sanctuary' Immigration Policies After Trump Order, Mayor Says

Many other mayors say they'll resist the president's threat to cut federal funds.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has successfully strong-armed the mayor of Florida’s Miami-Dade County into abandoning local so-called sanctuary policies against working with federal deportation officers.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) on Thursday instructed county jails to hold individuals without exception if Immigration and Customs Enforcement demands it. The county “intends to fully cooperate with the federal government,” he wrote in the memorandum.

Trump, on Twitter, applauded the mayor’s decision as “strong.” 

The mayor’s order makes Miami-Dade one of the first victims of Trump’s campaign to demolish sanctuary city policies, in part by threatening to cut federal grants. Despite an executive order Trump signed on Wednesday leaders of other major cities say they have no intention of bowing to the president’s threats.

But the pressure worked on Miami-Dade, which had restricted cooperation with ICE to some degree since 2013, even though Gimenez has resisted the “sanctuary city” label. The county’s official policy has been to hold individuals upon ICE requests only if the federal government agrees to reimburse the cost, and the person either had been convicted of a specific felony or had a pending charge for one. The policy saved the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to a memo this month from the county attorney.

Trump has said he would punish sanctuary cities ― even if nearly all of them, like Miami-Dade, do cooperate with ICE to some extent. There’s no exact definition for a sanctuary city, but those targeted by Trump’s order generally limit the extent they’ll work with ICE by honoring requests to hold individuals only for certain serious crimes, or by releasing individuals when local authorities have no other reason to hold them.

Supporters of sanctuary policies argue that holding individuals solely for immigration purposes is illegal, and some courts have agreed. They also say working with federal authorities can have a chilling effect on undocumented immigrants working with local law enforcement as witnesses or victims of crime. 

Miami-Dade County is 65 percent Hispanic, according to census figures. The think tank Migration Policy Institute estimated that about 150,000 undocumented immigrants live in Miami-Dade County and nearby Monroe County. 

It wasn’t just Gimenez in Miami-Dade who feared losing federal funding. Democratic County Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the 2013 policy that restricted the county’s cooperation with ICE, had planned legislation to change that position based on the threat of funding cuts, the Miami Herald reported.