Trump confirms he is considering placing undocumented migrants only in 'sanctuary cities' in revenge against Democrats

Sanctuary cities invariably controlled by Democratic politicians

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 12 April 2019 13:49 BST
Donald Trump confirms plans to send undocumented migrants to 'sanctuary cities' to punish Democrats

Donald Trump has confirmed he is considering placing undocumented migrants only in “sanctuary cities”, in an apparent attempt to create problems for Democratic politicians.

This week it was reported that White House officials had considered the plan to release migrants detained at the border into cities such as San Francisco, to retaliate against the president’s critics.

The Washington Post, which obtained internal emails that showed officials at the department of homeland security discussing the idea, revealed the issue was raised at least twice in the last six months.

Sanctuary cities are those where local officials decline to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation, the newspaper pointed out, and are invariably controlled by Democratic legislators.

The report said the legal department of the country’s immigration and customs enforcement agency, often referred to as ICE, had rejected the proposal.

However on Friday, Mr Trump claimed the idea was still being given strong consideration.

“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 only,” he tweeted.

He added: “The radical left always seems to have an open borders, open arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

Mr Trump’s tweet appeared to catch his staff by surprise. Abby Phillip, a White House reporter for CNN, wrote on Twitter that “the White House JUST put out a statement saying the policy was no longer being considered”. She added: “Trump is now saying the opposite.”

Later, speaking at the White House during an event on 5G, the president claimed he was being serious.

“We are looking at he possibility, strongly looking at it to be honest with you,” he said, saying he could give give California an “unlimited supply” of immigrants.

“If they don’t agree we night as well do what they say they want....we’ll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it.”

Reuters said the administration considered the plan in November last year as a caravan, made up mostly of migrants from Central American countries, travelled through Mexico towards the southern US border. The proposal emerged again in February during a standoff with Democrats over funding as the president sought to build a wall on the border, one of the signature issues of his 2016 election campaign and presidency.

The Post said a 16 November email broached the proposal, asking officials at different agencies whether members of the migrant caravan could be detained at the border, then bused to “small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities”, where local officials refuse to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

US Sanctuary Cities: We in California have a responsibility to say 'no'

The idea of sanctuary cities first developed during the 1980s as a challenge to the US government’s refusal to grant asylum to certain Central American refugees.

It has taken on new importance and energy since the election of Mr Trump, who has persistently positioned himself as an immigration hardliner, something that has intensified as the number of migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border has soared in recent months.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was one of those the White House considered targeting, the newspaper said

Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for Ms Pelosi, denounced the administration for its “cynicism and cruelty” over the plan.

“Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal,” she told Reuters. “Americans have resoundingly rejected this administration’s toxic anti-immigrant policies.”

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