The Trump administration reportedly pushed immigration authorities to dump illegal migrants in sanctuary cities as a retaliatory measure.
On two different occasions, the White House approached Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about the possibility of transporting detained illegal immigrants and releasing them into sanctuary cities, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The idea — pitched by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — was first proposed to immigration officials in November when a caravan was approaching the U.S. southern border, and again in February when Democrats and the White House were locked in a standoff over funding for the president’s border wall.
The administration wanted the migrants to be released in cities with a strong Democratic presence and even targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. When the White House first proposed the idea in November, officials sent an email asking several agencies whether members of the then-incoming caravan could be arrested and bussed “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities” where local law enforcement officials refused to cooperate with ICE.
The proposal was not only intended to alleviate overcrowded detainment centers, but to also send a message to liberal sanctuary cities.
ICE rejected the proposal both times. When first approached in November, an ICE official cited budgetary, liability and “PR risks as well.” When approached for the second time in February, ICE’s legal department framed the proposal as inappropriate.
“This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion,” the White House said in a statement to WaPo.
Despite being a vocal supporter of sanctuary city laws, Pelosi’s office put the administration on blast over the idea.
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” stated Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for Pelosi. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”
A White House spokesman, speaking Friday morning, said the proposal wasn’t so much about political retribution as it was relieving an “unfair burden” on border communities. “Why wouldn’t we send them to districts where Democrats say ‘we want ’em?’” the spokesman said.
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