President Trump confirmed Friday that the White House is considering a plan to transport detained immigrants to “sanctuary cities” and release them there as a way to punish his political enemies.
Late Thursday night, the Washington Post published a report about the proposal. A White House official downplayed the story, telling the Post in a statement, “This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”
A day later Trump said he was giving “strong considerations” to the plan.
“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities,” said Trump Friday afternoon in a series of tweets. “Only The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!”
At an afternoon event at the White House laying out a pushing the deployment of 5G technology, Trump again boasted of trying to punish states and cities that have adopted sanctuary policies for immigrants by sending them those who enter the country seeking political asylum.
“We’ll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it, whether it’s a state or whatever it might be,” Trump said. “California certainly is always saying ‘Oh, we want more people,’ and they want more people in their sanctuary cities, well, we’ll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply and let’s see if they’re so happy.”
According to the Post’s report, May Davis, deputy assistant to the president and White House policy coordinator, wrote to immigration officials in November asking about the viability of transporting migrants arrested at the border to cities that generally did not cooperate with federal immigration enforcements.
“The idea has been raised by 1-2 principals that, if we are unable to build sufficient temporary housing, that caravan members be bussed to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” Davis wrote. “There is NOT a White House decision on this.”
Immigrations and Custom Enforcement deputy director Matthew Albence replied that the idea “would create an unnecessary operational burden” and added, “Not sure how paying to transport aliens to another location to release them — when they can be released on the spot — is a justified expenditure. Not to mention the liability should there be an accident along the way.”
The White House broached the subject again in February, shortly after the federal government shutdown caused by the Trump administration’s insistence on getting funding for border security, including a wall.
“It was retaliation, to show them, ‘Your lack of cooperation has impacts,’” a Department of Homeland Security official told the Post. “I think they thought it would put pressure on those communities to understand, I guess, a different perspective on why you need more immigration money for detention beds.”
The term “sanctuary city” refers to localities where officials generally do not inform federal immigrant agencies about undocumented immigrants who come to their attention. The intent is humanitarian and also to encourage immigrants to cooperate with police and other government agencies without fear of deportation.
Those areas have been a target since the early days of the Trump administration, when he signed an executive order attempting to deny funding to jurisdictions that did not cooperate with federal immigration officials. The order was blocked by a federal judge.
It is an article of faith with Trump that immigrants bring crime and disease to the United States. But studies have found that sanctuary cities have either lower or equal crime rates to non-sanctuary cities. A study of Texas in 2015 found that crime rates among immigrants were lower than among native-born citizens.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was one of the areas considered as a release point for immigrants detained at the border.
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne in a statement to the Post. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”