Trump Wants to Dump Detainees in Sanctuary Cities

Stephen Miller and others wanted to punish Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats by dumping detained migrants in their districts.

Yesterday morning, the Washington Post reported that unnamed White House officials had an ingenious solution for dealing with the problem of the massive pool of migrants under detention:

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months — once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump’s border wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target, according to DHS officials. The administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds.

White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” places where local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of detention space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”

After the White House pressed again in February, ICE’s legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration.

A White House official and a spokesman for DHS sent nearly identical statements to The Post on Thursday, indicating that the proposal is no longer under consideration.

“This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion,” the White House statement said.

Washington Post, “White House proposed releasing immigrant detainees in sanctuary cities, targeting political foes”

The suggestion is simultaneously diabolical and comical. One can imagine a crazy uncle hatching such a scheme. Why, if that Nancy Pelosi likes these migrants so much, we’ll just send them to her!

It stops being funny, of course, when you consider this was an actual policy proposal that went from wry office humor to actual written instructions sent out to agencies from the highest levels of our government. Twice!

I suppose we should be relieved that ICE lawyers pushed back and the White House listened.

Pelosi’s office had the right response:

“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”

Only very deep into the piece do we get this:

Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller discussed the proposal with ICE, according to two DHS officials. Matthew Albence, who is ICE’s acting deputy director, immediately questioned the proposal in November.

Albence declined to comment but issued a statement through a spokesman acknowledging there was a discussion about the proposal.
“As the Acting Deputy I was not pressured by anyone at the White House on this issue. I was asked my opinion and provided it and my advice was heeded,” the statement said.

DHS officials said the proposal resurfaced during the shutdown talks three months later, when Albence brought ICE attorneys into the discussion, seeking the legal review that ultimately doomed the proposal.
Miller declined to comment. His name did not appear on any of the documents reviewed by The Post. But as he is White House senior adviser on immigration policy, officials at ICE understood that he was pressing the plan.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this were Miller’s brainchild.

Deeper still into the piece we get this:

The White House proposal reached ICE first in November as a highly publicized migrant caravan was approaching the United States. May Davis, deputy assistant to the president and deputy White House policy coordinator, wrote to officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security with the subject line: “Sanctuary City Proposal.”

“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,” Davis wrote, seeking responses to the idea’s operational and legal viability. “There is NOT a White House decision on this.”

Albence replied that such a plan “would create an unnecessary operational burden” on an already strained organization and raised concerns about its appropriateness, writing: “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. Not to mention the liability should there be an accident along the way.”

This ws simultaneously comforting and disturbing. On the one hand, while one could easily imagine President Trump thinking this was a great idea, it wasn’t an order from on high or even a consensus policy proposal. On the other, it means that people at high levels in the administration feel free to send out legally dubious, politically charged schemes for agency action without subjecting them to a vetting process. And it’s not great, either, that ICE’s basis for rejection wasn’t so much on moral or legal grounds but that it would be expensive and manpower-intensive to carry it out.

Alas, it got much worse.

Rather than dismissing the report as an overblown treatment of a bad idea way down in chain of command, President Trump responded by tweeting this out:

WaPo issued a new report yesterday evening:

President Trump moved aggressively Friday to take ownership of an internal White House plan to release immigrant detainees into “sanctuary cities” that his aides had sought to minimize a day earlier by saying it was shelved months ago after only informal consideration.
Directly contradicting his staff, Trump declared in a tweet that he was giving the plan “strong considerations,” and, at an event later in the day, sarcastically challenged Democrats in liberal jurisdictions to accept the immigrants with “open arms.”

The president said that if Congress refuses to change immigration laws to allow his administration to more quickly deport a surge of asylum-seeking Central American families, “we’ll bring — I call them the ‘illegals’ because they enter the country illegally — to sanctuary cities and areas and let those particular areas take care of it.”

Specifically referring to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Trump added: “California is always saying, ‘We want more people.’ We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply. Let’s see if they’re so happy.”

Since 1989, San Francisco has had policies aimed at limiting municipal cooperation with federal immigration authorities in certain cases, and California in 2017 adopted a “sanctuary state” law that implemented similar restrictions.

Trump’s comments capped a frenzied two-week period during which the president threatened to close the U.S. border with Mexico, only to pull back amid warnings that such a move would deeply harm the economy. He then embarked on an overhaul of the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security that included the removal of Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary and a promise to staff the agency with people who would take a “tougher” approach on immigration.

WaPo, “Trump says he is giving ‘strong considerations’ to releasing immigrant detainees in ‘sanctuary cities'”

It’s remarkable, indeed, to react to a report that your administration was considering doing something cruel, stupid, and illegal and then double down on what an intriguing idea it is.

Columnist Karen Tumulty is not amused.

Lily Tomlin had it right. No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.

[…]

There are sensible, effective steps to be taken, some of which have been pointed out on the Post editorial page.The longer-term one would be addressing the conditions that are driving migrants to leave their home countries in the first place. Instead, the Trump administration has reduced foreign aid, and threatened to cut it off entirely if the governments of crime-ridden Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador continue to, in Trump’s words, “allow their citizens” to leave for the United States.

More immediately, what is needed are hundreds more immigration judges to deal with a historically high backlog of around 800,000 cases, to determine which should be justifiably regarded as meriting asylum. Also badly needed are expanding the detention centers that currently exist and making them more suitable for families.

But instead, Trump is reported to be considering reinstating some version of the family-separation policy that he had to reverse last year, and now, we learn, has been dreaming up more barbaric schemes. What comes next for these families might be even more horrifying than what we have seen.

Opinion: “The Trump White House sets a new standard for cynicism and callousness”

It’s almost as though the cruelty were the point.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Donald Trump
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I call them the ‘illegals’ because they enter the country illegally

    This is rich, coming from a person for whom every breath taken is in service of breaking the laws of this country.

    It’s almost as though the cruelty were the point.

    A correct diagnosis, Dr. Obvious, 😉 .

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  2. Kit says:

    ICE’s basis for rejection wasn’t so much on moral or legal grounds but that it would be expensive and manpower-intensive to carry it out.

    Sounds like the same sort of reasoning that the Right uses when it starts questioning capital punishment.

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  3. Butch Bracknell says:

    Let’s talk about the term “sanctuary city.” The concept has its roots in religion — not just Christianity but also Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. They were called Cities of Refuge where the oppressed could get a break from cruel civil authorities. Many US cities now respect the right of churches to offer refuge to alleged criminals as a sort of time out of negotiate surrender, etc.

    In modern usage it simply means local jurisdictions refuse to do the federal government’s job for them. Once upon a time, we called this “federalism.”

    The conservatives have hijacked the term “sanctuary cities” to exaggerate the effect of not actively cooperating with federal immigration authorities. They’re way better at messaging than progressives.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Butch Bracknell:

    They’re way better at messaging than progressives.

    Yes they are. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we progressives could learn a thing or 2 from them.

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  5. Kathy says:

    Poor President Miller. His comic opera villainous schemes keep getting foiled. Perhaps he needs a better puppet than the Orange Ape currently fronting at the Oval Office.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Butch Bracknell:

    The conservatives have hijacked the term “sanctuary cities” to exaggerate the effect of not actively cooperating with federal immigration authorities. They’re way better at messaging than progressives.

    That’s a strong point. It might be worthy of a post in its own right.

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  7. Teve says:

    They’re way better at messaging than progressives.

    Yes they are. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we progressives could learn a thing or 2 from them.

    Slinging glib bullshit has always been, and will always be, easier and more viral than careful reasoned analysis. If “successful businessman” Donald Trump teaches us anything, it’s that not all “success” should be emulated.

    I learned that 20 years ago, watching Duane Gish.

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  8. EddieInCA says:

    Do I have this right?

    They’re’ going to take immigrants and bus them to the cities where they’ll be the most welcome, where there is a network of people waiting too help them, and where they will likely get put before judges who are most favorable to their predicaments?

    Oh No!!! Let’s not do that!!!!!!! /snark

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  9. This administration (and much of the GOP these days) has become a weird manifestation of the conservative entertainment complex. This “proposal” is the kind of thing one might hear on Limbaugh or Hannitty–not the kind of thing that serious professionals would attempt. As “policy” it makes no sense.

    This is why I noted the other day in a comment thread that Trump gets a lot of his policy advice from TV and conservative commentators. I wasn’t being hyperbolic. And people like Stephen Miller clearly have taken their indoctrination from such sources more seriously than he did his education.

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  10. @EddieInCA: No doubt word that migrants will get a free trip from El Paso to San Francisco will shut off all desire to leave San Salvador.

    Ugh.

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  11. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Can asylum applicants have their immigration hearing in whatever city is closest? Or would they be forced to transport themselves to whatever city DHS chooses?

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve:

    Slinging glib bullshit has always been, and will always be, easier and more viral than careful reasoned analysis.

    “Slinging glib bullshit” is the heart and soul of politics. “Careful reasoned analysis” is the heart of good governance. One is not the same as the other and the fact that so many progressives think the 2nd is sufficient to replace the first is part of how we ended up with trump. I don’t like it any more than you, but ignoring the manner by which many voters engage with the electoral process is a sure way to lose a lot of elections.

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  13. EddieInCA says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Bob@Youngstown says:
    Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 10:27
    @EddieInCA:

    Can asylum applicants have their immigration hearing in whatever city is closest? Or would they be forced to transport themselves to whatever city DHS chooses?

    I don’t know. But under the plan being floated by POTUS, DHS would move the immigrants to “sanctuary cities”.

    So they’ll be shipped to Austin, Albequerque, Seattle, SF, L.A., New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, NYC, Miami, etc…

    Oh, the horror!!!!!!

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  14. EddieInCA says:

    Also, according to this map…

    https://cis.org/Map-Sanctuary-Cities-Counties-and-States

    …. Sanctuary Cities/Counties exist in such blue havens as Lousiana, Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, and North Carolina.

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  15. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: progressives have to do better at selling their policies with bumper stickers. “Medicare for all” makes a great bumper sticker. But telling cheap lies isn’t the answer, even if the other side has a great time with it.

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  16. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: progressives have to do better at selling their policies with bumper stickers. “Medicare for all” makes a great bumper sticker. But telling cheap lies isn’t the answer, even if the other side has a great time with it.

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  17. Teve says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This administration (and much of the GOP these days) has become a weird manifestation of the conservative entertainment complex. This “proposal” is the kind of thing one might hear on Limbaugh or Hannitty–not the kind of thing that serious professionals would attempt. As “policy” it makes no sense.

    holy shit, I just remembered some really stupid memes that went around social media over the last six months. Paraphrased, “If you like illegal immigrants so much, how many are you going to put up in your house???”

    This policy is almost an attempt to implement exactly that.

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  18. Bob@Youngstown says:

    But under the plan being floated by POTUS,

    ?? Does the plan run like this: Buses would ply back-and-forth along the border, Border Patrol would apprehend persons improperly entering (aka not at POE). These persons would be placed on a bus immediately and when the bus was full, the bus would depart for (say) Youngstown Ohio. Without notice to anyone, the bus would discharge all the passengers on Main Street, Youngstown at whatever time it arrived.
    Is (was) this the plan??

    How does this not sound like “catch & release” ?

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  19. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Soooo…..

    As a person who spent some time in a state capitol, playing politics is always finding a way to position the “others’ in a bad light.

    However this presidential suggestion is outright trolling. Positioning something so far outside the realm of the likely, only to see what the “other” side will do.

    We find ourselves with the State Department replaced by daily viewing of hours of Fox news and skimming questionable right-wing “news’ websites, and delivered by presidential fiat via twitter… this is what we have passing as policy.

    The GOP is swirling down the drain, taking America with is, and they all think that it is just one merry boat ride.

    Have we reached the figurative lobster-boiling-in-a-pot point? Is there no conservative resistance to this idiot?

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  20. @Liberal Capitalist:

    We find ourselves with the State Department replaced by daily viewing of hours of Fox news and skimming questionable right-wing “news’ websites, and delivered by presidential fiat via twitter… this is what we have passing as policy.

    Yup.

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  21. gVOR08 says:

    @EddieInCA: That is exactly how Dems should be responding to this. And Democrats may. But the stupid MSM will be going on about how Trump is mean, allowing his base to think he’s being strong.

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  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: Yeah, I get it. Unfortunately, the plan as outlined is to send them (I would assume in the largest possible numbers) to the smallest, least capable of handling the influx cities. And I have to assume that Miller, not being a villain from a Batman comic, has probably studied the issue carefully and worked on making sure that it would create the same type of “refugee crisis” that we see in other parts of the world.

    Or at least as close to it as is possible.

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  23. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    Have we reached the figurative lobster-boiling-in-a-pot point? Is there no conservative resistance to this idiot?

    No. ‘This idiot’ is what conservatism was already before he came along; it’s how ‘this idiot’ got elected.

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  24. Michael j Reynolds says:

    So. . . Trump now supports catch and release? And he wants to send the refugees to the very places they’d have gone anyway? And then. . . we have an increase in undocumented brown people and this will make his base happy? Um. . . what?

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  25. Modulo Myself says:

    What utter morons–conservative talking points are now basically like LA and NYC and SF have nothing on the excitement of the free-market swamp at Foxconn Park, WI or the buffet table at a Trump resort, plus everybody hates immigrants and migrants, so of course they think this is a great idea.

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  26. Tyrell says:

    The policy of “sanctuary” that is being implemented in some of these cities is not what the traditional “sanctuary” was. Long ago sanctuary was used to protect the citizens from criminals and invading armies.

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  27. Michael j Reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    And you got that nugget of nonsense from where? You’re on the internet, right? You’re capable of doing a Google search?

    You can always start with Wikipedia:

    Right of asylum
    Many ancient peoples recognized a religious right of asylum, protecting criminals (or those accused of crime) from legal action and from exile to some extent. This principle was adopted by the early Christian church, and various rules developed for what the person had to do to qualify for protection and just how much protection it was.

    In England, King Æthelberht made the first laws regulating sanctuary in about AD 600, though Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136) says that the legendary pre-Saxon king Dunvallo Molmutius (4th/5th century BC) enacted sanctuary laws in the Molmutine Laws as recorded by Gildas (c. 500–570).[4] By Norman times, there had come to be two kinds of sanctuary: All churches had the lower-level kind, but only the churches the king licensed had the broader version. The medieval system of asylum was finally abolished entirely in England by James I in 1623.[5]

    Political asylum
    During the Wars of the Roses of the 15th century when the Lancastrians or Yorkists would suddenly gain the upper hand by winning a battle, some adherents of the losing side might find themselves surrounded by adherents of the winning side and unable to return to their own side, so they would rush to sanctuary at the nearest church until it was safe to leave it. A prime example is Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV of England.

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  28. An Interested Party says:

    They’re way better at messaging than progressives.

    Messaging is easier when trying to persuade the simplistic and the ignorant…

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  29. Guarneri says:

    Any damned fool can engage in vacuous sanctuary city virtue signaling. Actually making good on your position is hard.

    Classic NIMBY

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  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Guarneri: @Guarneri:

    Guarneri says:
    Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 21:42

    Any damned fool can engage in vacuous sanctuary city virtue signaling. Actually making good on your position is hard.

    Classic NIMBY

    I’ve been watching the news all day, and it’s fascinating watching this play out. Liberals are saying “Great. We love that idea.” and conservatives are saying “Ha. We knew you wouldn’t like it.”, to which Liberals are saying “No. We think it’s great. Send them to our cities.” and conservatives are saying “See! We knew you hated it.”.

    On this thread you have alot of liberals saying, “Bring it on.”, and your take away from that is that liberals are saying “Not in my backyard”?

    What color is the sky in your world? Because you’re not dealing with reality here.

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  31. michilines says:

    This is not so hard to figure out. Of course cruelty is the point — but more than just cruelty towards the people coming to seek asylum. Because Trump and his followers believe the people they want to ship to sanctuary cities to be criminals, then they want to expose the citizens living in those cities to the dangers that they believe will result from having asylum seekers in those communities.

    Then there are the people like @Guarneri who think that sanctuary cities decided to claim to be that without having experienced any asylum seekers or immigrants in their communities. They believe that people living in sanctuary cities just like the idea of having asylum seekers in their cities, but when it comes down to the reality that Trump will really send those places some asylum seekers, then they balk and get scared — because people like @Guarneri are scared.

    It’s pretty simple.

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  32. @Guarneri: I quoted four mayors in my post on this subject who were saying that they would welcome the asylees. One wrote a whole column in WaPo.

    What are you basing your assertion on?

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  33. @michilines:

    Of course cruelty is the point

    This is clearly the case. The administration thinks that cruelty will deter more migrants.

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  34. An Interested Party says:

    Because you’re not dealing with reality here.

    Of course he isn’t…if he did deal with reality, he couldn’t support Trump…

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  35. michilines says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The administration thinks that cruelty will deter more migrants.

    But my point was that this goes beyond that. The Trump administration wants to punish sanctuary cities with the “evil illegals” that they scare people like @Guarneri with.

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  36. @michilines: True.

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  37. Plus, I note the silence from @Guarneri once confronted with evidence counter to his claim…

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  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:
    @Guarneri, like most people, has no interest in the truth. If the truth conflicts with his calcified beliefs, it is dismissed. He’s presented us with a near-perfect insight into the state of his mind: that which reinforces his prejudices is true, that which does not, is false.

    It’s the Red Queen theory of reality: sentence first, verdict after. Step One: start with assumption, sift data to support assumption, dismiss all other data. Result: nonsense.

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