President Trump said Friday that his administration was strongly considering transporting immigrants apprehended at the border to so-called sanctuary cities.
Trump’s comments came on the heels of a report in the Washington Post that administration officials had, on two occasions, floated the idea of transporting immigrants detained at the border and elsewhere to sanctuary cities — or jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials — as political retribution.
The idea was batted down by Department of Homeland Security officials, including the new acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Matthew Albence, the Post reported.
On Friday, Trump tweeted: “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...The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”
Then, at a press conference later in the day, Trump said his administration was looking at the possibility of shipping immigrants from the border to sanctuary cities and states.
“We'll bring ... the illegals, I call them the illegals, that came across the border illegally, 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.”
Court orders restrict authorities from holding families for longer than three weeks in detention centers. And as the numbers of family units being apprehended at the border have skyrocketed in recent months, authorities at the border have started releasing them with orders to appear at an immigration court for their hearings. Individuals at the border are generally released into close proximity in cities such as El Paso, Texas, as they await their next destination.
A former senior ICE official said any plan to systematically force the agency to transport individuals en masse from the border to sanctuary cities deeper in the US would be logistically very difficult.
“The budget is already probably very tight ... so these would be added and unanticipated expenses,” the former official said. “To the extent they would deliberately bus people from the border to interior cities just to drop them off — where they could have released closer to the site of apprehension — it potentially is not an appropriate expenditure.”
The former official added that every time ICE has custody of an individual, they have responsibility for them, “so putting them on the road — presumably they would bus as flying is more expensive — just adds exposure without any operational upside.”
Congressional Democrats said such an idea was out-of-bounds.
“The fact that this idea was even considered — not once but twice — serves as a reminder that the Trump administration’s reckless immigration agenda is not about keeping the country safe, but about partisan politics and wantonly inflicting cruelty,” said Bernie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. “President Trump’s terrible border security and immigration ideas have all failed for the simple reason that they are terrible.”
One immigration judge told BuzzFeed News it was a “nonsensical suggestion” that will just be “one more distraction from the real problems we are facing.”
“A humanitarian solution is the only durable solution,” the judge added.
Meanwhile, one leader of a sanctuary city, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, shot back at the suggestion of her city being targeted by the administration.
“This is just another in a long line of scare tactics and half-baked ideas that are just about chasing headlines and distracting people from real issues,” she tweeted. “In SF we are proud to be a sanctuary city and we’ll continue to stand up for all of our residents.”