There was a sigh of relief on Friday, March 3, after a decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch (shown in photo), who ruled in favor of human beings over the threat of the loss of federal dollars for Miami-Dade county coffers.
And yet, nothing has truly been decided. The Miami Herald reported that “the immediate impact of the ruling was unclear. For one thing, the judge did not explicitly order Miami-Dade jailers to stop honoring requests by the federal government to hold people marked for deportation, or suspected of violating immigration laws.”
In a ruling rebuking the cowardly performance of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez and nine of 12 county commissioners (one did not attend the meeting), Judge Milton Hirsch sided with the basic rights of a human being and declared that Miami-Dade violated the U.S. Constitution when it agreed to imprison undocumented immigrants slated for deportation. “Of course we must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration,” wrote Judge Hirsch. But stressed that “we must protect our country from a great many things; but from nothing so much as from the loss of our historic rights and liberties.”
As reported by the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei in late January, “Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez … ordered county jails to comply with federal immigration detention requests — effectively gutting the county’s position as a ‘sanctuary’ for immigrants in the country illegally.”
She added that “Giménez cited an executive order [signed] by President Donald Trump that threatened to cut federal grants for any counties or cities that don’t cooperate fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
In doing so, Giménez became the first big-city mayor to enforce the Trump ruling and was criticized by many for doing so without being asked. At the time, his action got a quick reaction on Twitter from President Trump who wrote: “Miami-Dade Mayor drops sanctuary policy. Right decision. Strong!”
But many in the south Florida community were dissatisfied and showed it by protesting and attending several county commission meetings were the issue was discussed — to no avail. On Feb. 17 public hearing the Herald reported that “county commissioners rejected hours of impassioned testimony from residents who implored the board to stand up to the mayor and the White House. More than 150 people spent the day at County Hall delivering an often eloquent defense of immigration and South Florida’s vaunted diversity; only a small number supported Gimenez’s action.”
After the 9 to 3 vote in favor of the Giménez decision, many in the audience shouted “Shame on You!” as they filed out of the commission chambers.
Talking to reporters later, Mayor Giménez, a Cuban American and therefore an immigrant, said “Miami-Dade is not — has never considered itself — a sanctuary community.” Six of the nine votes cast in favor of the mayor’s move were also cast by immigrants — Cuban Americans to be specific. Two of the nine votes came from African Americans, and one from a blue-eyed, white woman, whose forefathers, I am sure, were once recently-arrived immigrants in this country.
In Friday’s decision, Judge Hirsch wrote that the policy violated the Tenth Amendment, which limits the reach of the federal government over states.
The Herald reported that the county immediately filed a notice of appeal with the Third District Court of Appeal.
When President Trump took office in January, he threatened to cut federal funding from so-called “sanctuary” cities that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. That’s when Giménez and company took action against the community they represent. More than half of the population of Miami-Dade county is composed of people born in another country. Estimates of the number of undocumented in the county vary.
“Miami is not, and has never been, a sanctuary city,” Judge Hirsch wrote. “But America is, and has always been, a sanctuary country.”