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Miami-Dade Officials Attempt To Block Debate Over Immigration Orders


Protesters disrupted a county commission meeting in Miami today. They were angry about a new policy adopted after President Trump threatened to cut off federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. In reaction to the president's order, Miami-Dade County has made it easier for federal authorities to catch people in the country illegally. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: No metropolitan area in the U.S. has a higher percentage of immigrants than Greater Miami. That's one reason why the reaction was so immediate when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the new county policy last month. He instructed county Corrections officials to begin holding inmates who had federal immigration detention orders. On WPLG TV's "This Week In South Florida" Sunday, Gimenez defended his decision.


CARLOS GIMENEZ: When President Trump put out his orders, said, you know, this - I think this gentleman is serious. And by the way, we have $350 million in federal funding that we receive every year.

ALLEN: Gimenez changed the county policy the day after Trump signed an executive order threatening to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities. Gimenez described the decision as one of dollars and cents. But in this immigrant-rich community, many see it differently. At Miami-Dade's county commission meeting today, Chairman Esteban Bovo asked protesters to hold their comments for a special meeting later this month.


ESTEBAN BOVO: Let's not encourage it.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Say no. Fight back.

ALLEN: He rejected several speakers who mentioned the word immigrant. Some, like Gaby Garcia-Vera, would not be deterred.


GABY GARCIA-VERA: I will not sit in fear of this commission to say the word immigrant because I know that our communities are under attack. And immigrants form a crucial...

BOVO: OK, thank you. Thank you for your participation.

ALLEN: Garcia-Vera's microphone was cut off, and he was escorted out of the meeting. Miami-Dade's policy change ordered by the mayor won't become final until it's ratified by the county commission. This week, advocacy groups and legal scholars sent a letter to the commissioners saying they believed Mayor Gimenez was misreading the law and had, in their words, been duped. Trump's executive order, they say, requires only the sharing of information with federal immigration authorities, not honoring detention requests. At today's meeting, the chairman of the county Democrats, Juan Cuba, called on commissioners to take a stand.


JUAN CUBA: Our communities are living in fear right now, and they need to hear from this commission. They need to hear from you that you're standing up for them.

ALLEN: On Sunday, Mayor Gimenez said in the first several days the policy was in effect, 27 inmates had already been held for immigration authorities. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.