Miami-Dade Mayor Criticizes Trump's Charlottesville Remarks as Trump's AG Praises the Mayor

by | August 17, 2017

By George Bennett

Attorney General Jeff Sessions commended Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for shedding his jurisdiction's "sanctuary city" status on a day when Gimenez ripped President Donald Trump for his "ambiguity" about blame for the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Sessions scheduled Wednesday's visit to highlight the Trump Administration's efforts to get local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by holding jail inmates who have been targeted for deportation. Sessions praised Miami-Dade in his remarks, but also devoted much of his address to condemning Chicago and other cities that have challenged Trump's immigration crackdown.

Meanwhile, Gimenez, a Republican who has been criticized for cooperating with the Trump Administration on the immigration effort, issued a statement criticizing the president a few hours before Sessions arrived.

"It was very disappointing to hear President Trump essentially take back his comments from Monday condemning white supremacists and their actions in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend," Gimenez said. "There should be no ambiguity about what took place in Charlottesville. A young woman lost her life, several others were injured, and hatred and bigotry were on display."

Trump had initially blamed "many sides" for Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, then specifically called out "the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups" on Monday. On Tuesday, however, Trump said there was "a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent."

Sessions also spoke briefly about Charlottesville during his Miami visit.

"In no way can we accept or apologize for racism, bigotry, hatred, violence and those kinds of things that too often arise in our country," the attorney general said. He said the FBI is "aggressively" investigating the matter in cooperation with local law enforcement.

Trump has threatened to withhold federal grant money from "sanctuary cities" that don't cooperate with federal immigration policies, such as honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests for "detainers" on jail inmates who would otherwise be released but are targeted for deportation. Miami-Dade's government, citing concern about losing a $480,000 federal law enforcement grant, recently reversed its past "sanctuary" policy.

Palm Beach County, which so far this year has detained at least 258 people at the request of ICE, has worked "very effectively" with the federal government, said Marc J. Moore, the ICE field office director for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Miami-Dade is also back in the good graces of the federal government, Sessions said.

"Miami-Dade is an example of what is possible with hard work, professional policing and a rededication to the rule of law," Sessions said in remarks to more than 100 law enforcement officers and ICE officials at a cruise terminal. "Miami-Dade is now in compliance, full compliance, and eligible for all federal law enforcement grant dollars. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This is good news for law enforcement and for the citizens of Miami-Dade. It means more money for crime fighting. It means we're partners, partners together in keeping everyone safe."

Chicago and other cities have filed lawsuits calling Trump's threat to withhold federal money unconstitutional. Critics of ICE detainers argue that the federal government cannot compel local governments to enforce immigration laws and that cooperation with ICE builds distrust between minority communities and police.

"The Trump Justice Department ... is asking the city of Chicago to choose between our core values as a welcoming city and our fundamental principles of community policing," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a recent news conference, according to the Associated Press. "It is a false choice and a wrong choice. Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate."

Sessions said Chicago's political leaders are jeopardizing public safety.

"The leaders in Chicago have made this a political issue... This is a serious problem for the people," Sessions said.

As for the threatened loss of federal grant money, Sessions said: "If the people in Chicago and these other cities are concerned about losing money, I suggest not calling me but calling your city council and your mayor."

(c)2017 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)