President Trump is accused of pressuring Kirstjen Nielsen, his former Homeland Security secretary, to release undocumented immigrants into “sanctuary cities” as a way of pressuring Democrats to support his proposed border wall.
An unnamed source with knowledge of the conversations told The Washington Post that Trump floated the idea as a means of both freeing up space in immigrant detention centers while also simultaneously flooding predominantly Democratic Party-controlled cities with undocumented immigrants as a means of sending a message. Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who focuses on immigration issues, is understood to have been the key White House official pushing for the plan.
However, several agency heads, along with Nielsen, pushed back on the idea, saying it was “inappropriate” and could lead to unforeseen circumstances in terms of taxpayer cost, liability, and potential PR crises. Some of the sanctuary cities Trump included were San Francisco, California, and several other “small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities, according to a memo written by deputy White House policy coordinator May Davis 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 to officials at the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, emphasizing that “There is NOT a White House decision on this.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), whose district is in San Francisco, accused the Trump administration of using undocumented immigrants as “pawns” to score political points.
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne told the Post. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”
While Trump has frequently attempted to cast immigrants — particularly ones from Central and South America — as lawbreakers who would wreak havoc if allowed across the border. However, data shows that U.S. citizens are far more likely to commit crimes than immigrants, whether they’re documented or undocumented.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.