A courthouse in Florida
A police car in Florida Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has proposed using local law enforcement to carry out "the largest deportation operation in American history." However, candidates for Miami-Dade County sheriff, including those endorsed by Trump, largely oppose the idea.

In interviews with the Miami Herald, several Republican candidates expressed concerns that involving local police in immigration enforcement would erode public trust and detract from core public safety duties.

John Rivera, a former police union leader running for sheriff, said that immigration enforcement should remain a federal responsibility. Similarly, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez stated that local law enforcement would not participate in Trump's proposed deportation plan.

This issue arises as Miami-Dade County prepares to elect a sheriff for the first time in decades due to a change in Florida's Constitution. Currently, the Miami-Dade Police Department is overseen by Democratic Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, but it will become the county Sheriff's Office in 2025. Both Republican and Democratic voters will select their nominees for sheriff in the August 20 primaries.

Despite the partisan nature of the election, there is a significant divide among Miami-Dade's Republican sheriff candidates regarding immigration enforcement. This divide highlights a potential challenge for a second Trump administration in implementing his mass deportation plan, even in jurisdictions that might be politically aligned with him.

Trump has suggested using local police, the National Guard, and possibly the U.S. military for his deportation efforts, but he has not detailed how he would secure the cooperation of local and state agencies.

In a recent interview with Time Magazine, Trump hinted at using financial incentives to gain local law enforcement support, though specifics were not provided. He also said he would give them immunity from any legal challenge that might arise as a result of their actions.

U.S. law stipulates that federal officials cannot deputize state or local law enforcement officers for federal immigration duties without the approval of the agency's head, such as a sheriff. Even Rosanna Cordero-Stutz, the Trump-endorsed candidate in the sheriff race, expressed limited willingness to assist federal immigration agents. Cordero-Stutz, originally from the Dominican Republic, emphasized that while federal immigration raids might need backup, she would not allocate deputies solely for immigration enforcement.

Other Republican candidates echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that the sheriff's department should focus on serious crimes committed by undocumented immigrants rather than routine immigration enforcement. Several also stressed the importance of maintaining public trust, particularly among undocumented residents who might be victims or witnesses of crimes.

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