A decision made by a Miami-Dade County judge has set up a showdown with President Donald Trump as he moves forward with his pledge to enforce federal immigration laws.
In a case involving an illegal immigrant who was detained for 28 hours in the county jail after he had fulfilled his sentence pending his transfer to federal immigration officials, Judge Milton Hirsch held that the policy of requiring local entities to cooperate with federal authorities is unconstitutional.
Immigration Customs & Enforcement (ICE) agents request that local entities inform them when an illegal alien is in custody, but many so-called “sanctuary” cities, as well as counties, have refused to cooperate, instead providing a safe haven to illegals who are under a deportation order, but are released into the community.
Although Hirsch did not order the county jailers in Miami-Dade to stop honoring ICE detainers, he found that a policy of cooperation violates the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits the powers of the federal government to those specifically enumerated in the document and reserves any other powers “to the states respectively, or to the people.”
His ruling had no impact on the illegal immigrant who challenged the policy, as he had already been turned over to ICE for deportation, but sets the stage for further legal argument as it was immediately appealed to a state court.
President Trump has announced his intention to withhold federal funding from governmental units that refuse to cooperate with the enforcement of federal immigration law, a position that has been used in the past to provide financial “encouragement” to states with respect to motorcycle helmet laws, as well as speed limits.
Last month, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sided with the president – and the federal funding – and ordered the county jails to hold illegal aliens pending their deportation by ICE, and the mayor’s office released a statement following Hirsch’s ruling, “It is Miami-Dade County’s position that immigration is a federal issue which should be handled in federal court.”
The County Commission approved Mayor Gimenez’s policy by a 9-3 vote, which had drawn criticism from the largely Hispanic community.
Juan Cuba, the chairman of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party, said, “The mayor and the Gimenez Nine can ignore the community but they can’t ignore the constitution and the courts.”
Federal immigration policy provides ICE agents 48-hours to take custody of an illegal alien held in a county jail, although Miami-Dade County has not honored the requests for several years, arguing initially that the county incurred additional costs for the increased time the detainee spent in the county jail.
Under federal policy, immigration agents had up to 48 hours to pick up someone being held in a county jail. But since 2013, Miami-Dade County had stopped honoring most requests by federal authorities to hold undocumented or deportable jail inmates after their sentences were up or their cases closed — though there were exceptions for serious crimes.
Judge Hirsch wrote in his opinion, “Miami is not, and has never been, a sanctuary city. But America is, and has always been, a sanctuary country,” suggesting that the ruling may be used to support an open borders argument when the case is heard on appeal.