- President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he was giving “strong considerations” to a plan that would release detained immigrants into so-called sanctuary cities in the US.
- The Washington Post first reported Thursday that the White House was asking US immigration officials to consider the idea.
- White House officials reportedly believed that the benefit would be twofold: The plan would be meant to both address the limited space in detention facilities and punish Democrats.
- The White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, one of the Trump administration’s immigration hardliners, was one of the plan’s advocates, according to CNN.
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President Donald Trump on Friday confirmed that his administration was “giving strong considerations” to a plan that would have immigration officials release migrants from detention centers into so-called sanctuary cities.
“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. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”
The Washington Post reported Thursday evening that the White House had asked US immigration officials multiple times in recent months to look into such a plan, which was partly intended to punish Democratic lawmakers.
White House officials floated the idea at least twice, according to Department of Homeland Security emails reviewed by The Post and unnamed DHS officials. Both instances occurred when the Trump administration faced fierce opposition to its immigration policies.
The White House initially proposed the idea in November as a Central American migrant caravan traveled toward the US border, according to The Post. The White House asked multiple agencies whether it could detain the migrants at the border and then transport them to sanctuary cities.
- Reuters/Adrees Latif
The proposal was apparently floated again in February, one month after Trump and Democratic lawmakers were at an impasse over funding for the president’s proposed border wall.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was one of the sanctuary-city drop-off points mentioned in the plan, Homeland Security officials told The Post.
‘An unnecessary operational burden’
White House officials reportedly believed that the benefit would be twofold: The plan would be meant to both address the limited space in detention centers and be a warning to Democrats.
The White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, one of the Trump administration’s immigration hardliners, was one of the plan’s advocates, DHS officials told The Post.
- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
“It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out,” a congressional investigator who spoke with a DHS whistleblower told the newspaper. “What happened here is that Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding, you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts.”
Trump was said to have encouraged Kirstjen Nielsen, the recently ousted secretary of homeland security, to execute the idea, according to separate CNN report. Nielsen reportedly resisted. She resigned from her post Sunday, and several other top DHS officials also left the department in recent days.
ICE reportedly didn’t think it was a good idea
Attorneys and officials at ICE reportedly rejected the idea, believing it was inappropriate and had the potential to become a public-relations crisis.
Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting deputy director who was recently tapped to become the acting director, told The Post in a statement that he was never “pressured,” though he was consulted on the idea.
“As the acting deputy I was not pressured by anyone at the White House on this issue,” the statement said. “I was asked my opinion and provided it and my advice was heeded.”
Albence had previously discussed the idea in emails, which were later obtained by The Post, and had said the plan would “create an unnecessary operational burden” on the agency and could have major liability implications.
“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,” Albence wrote, according to The Post. “Not to mention the liability should there be an accident along the way.”
According to CNN, “Miller was angered that DHS lawyers refused to produce legal guidance that would make the plan viable, saying the proposal would likely be illegal.”
In a statement to The Post, the White House said it was “just a suggestion” that was rejected and “ended any further discussion.”
Trump frequently rails against Democratic lawmakers and their support of sanctuary cities. Trump characterizes the cities as places rife with “dangerous and violent criminal aliens,” despite statistics showing a downward trend for violent crime in most major cities.
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