US President Donald Trump said he was considering action because of Democrat opposition to his border plans. The White House and Homeland Security officials said the idea had been dropped.
President Donald Trump said Friday that he was considering a plan to release detained immigrants into so-called sanctuary cities, hours after the White House and Department of Homeland Security said the idea had been rejected.
"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 president wrote on Twitter. He added: "The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!"
Sanctuary cities refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency charged with carrying out deportations of people living in the country illegally. Many sanctuary cities such as New York and San Francisco are Democratic strongholds.
Speaking to reporters, Trump said the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives needed to tighten visas and streamline the deportation process or risk an influx of migrants into sanctuary cities.
"If they don't agree we might 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," he said. "We can give them an unlimited supply."
Earlier, the White House and Department of Homeland Security said in nearly identical statements that the proposal was no longer under consideration. "This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion," according to the White House statement.
Sanctuary cities respond
Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, said the idea was "unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a country, as a people, to address who we are — a nation of immigrants."
Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel said migrants would be welcomed in one of the US' largest cities: "We would welcome these migrants with open arms, just as we welcomed Syrian refugees, just as we welcomed Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria and just as we welcome Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide in Myanmar."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Trump's immigration policy was rooted in cruelty. "He uses people like pawns," de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City will always be the ultimate city of immigrants — the President's empty threats won't change that."
A plan long considered
According to a report in The Washington Post, the idea of sending migrants to sanctuary cities had first been mooted by the White House in November. Migrants arrested at the border would be bussed "to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities" to alleviate a shortage of detention space and send a message to Democrats about their opposition to Trump's border wall plans.
However, ICE reportedly opposed the plan, both in November and again earlier this year as "inappropriate."
jm/amp (AP, Reuters, AFP)