The White House tried to pressure immigration authorities into releasing captured immigrants into sanctuary cities, particularly targeting liberal strongholds in hopes of hurting Democrats, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The report noted that the White House has attempted to pitch the idea to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at least twice since November. The White House suggested both transporting migrants who were captured at the border and those currently being held in facilities to sanctuary cities where local authorities don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities.
Among the areas targeted: Democratic strongholds, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco.
The Post reported that the proposal sought to ease the bed shortage at immigration detention centers and “send a message to Democrats.”
The White House did not immediately respond to inquires about the proposal. In a statement to the Post, the White House admitted it was “just a suggestion that was floated and rejected.”
The Department of Homeland Security echoed the White House in a statement to USA TODAY, saying, “this was a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”
‘His immigration legacy’: Immigration policy legal challenges? Advisers urge Trump to ignore setbacks, charge ahead
More: A multimillion-dollar question: What’s a ‘sanctuary city?’
Indeed, ICE’s legal department pushed back against the White House proposal, pointing out the legal concerns, budget issues and “PR risks as well,” according to the Washington Post, which cited both emails and officials within the DHS.
Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for Pelosi, derided the administration’s idea to use immigrants in an attempt to hurt Democrats, including the idea to target her district.
“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” Etienne said. “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. The American people have resoundingly rejected this Administration’s toxic anti-immigrant policies, and Democrats will continue to advance immigration policies that keep us safe and honor our values.”
The first time the White House brought up the idea was in November, around the time of the midterm elections, as a migrant caravan was approaching the southern U.S. border, the Post reported.
President Donald Trump repeatedly brought up the caravan and the southern border as a crucial issue in the lead up to the midterm races, even deploying 6,000 troops to the border in the days before voters cast their ballots.
“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,” May Davis, a deputy assistant to Trump wrote in an email to officials at ICE. The email’s subject line read: sanctuary City Proposal,” according to the Post.
Matthew Albence, who two administration officials say will be tapped as ICE’s acting director by Friday, wrote back and pointed out the flaws with the plan, including the “operational burden” in transporting so many migrants.