Trump proposes plan to move undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities


Getty Images; Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

A side-by-side of President Donald Trump and Mayor Bill de Blasio, representatives of the opposing stances taken on the proposed sanctuary cities plan.

Edan Larkin, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, April 12th, President Trump confirmed that a plan to transfer all undocumented immigrants living in border cities to sanctuary cities is indeed a possible course of action that the Trump Administration may take. In the week or so that has followed, controversy and debate surrounding this announcement has highlighted many discrepancies within the U.S. government’s inability to reach a consensus regarding immigration and sanctuary cities in specific.

“We’ve talked about a number of different things over the last two years that we’d love to see happen. Certainly this wouldn’t be our first choice because ideally we wouldn’t be dealing with a massive influx of illegal immigrants coming across the border,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the plan. When speaking to ABC News, she added, “We don’t want to put all of the burden on one or two border communities. Democrats have stated time and time again, they support open borders, they support sanctuary cities, so let’s spread out some of that burden and let’s put it in some of those other locations if that’s what they want to see happen and are refusing to actually help fix the problem.”

In a couple out of a series of tweets posted on April 12th, Trump wrote, “Those Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held (Congress must fix the laws and loopholes) will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!” and “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!” As seen before, Trump has pointed fingers at Democrats regarding his decision-making. But this time, Trump’s comments are arguably substantiated, as there are numerous cities and even states throughout the U.S. that have publicly dubbed themselves as “sanctuary cities.”

However, some of Trump’s earliest actions as president directly opposed sanctuary cities. On January 25th, 2017, five days after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order to “strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants,” according to then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer. To many, as ABC News reports, Trump’s change of heart appears to be more related to punishing his political rivals than progressing in the ongoing battle to create comprehensive immigrant policy.

Regardless of this, Trump began to really push this plan last week, also tweeting, “The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!”

But Trump’s Twitter claims do not necessarily have any legal backing. According to ABC News, a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security stated that Trump had already proposed the plan to then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who in turn asked their legal team to review it. The team rejected the plan outright, declaring that it is illegal, the official claimed. Upon hearing this, senior Peyton Belsher expressed her belief that “our nation is not in good hands.”

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings asserted that “[n]ot only does the administration lack the legal authority to transfer detainees in this manner, it is shocking that the president and senior administration officials are even considering manipulating release decisions for purely political reasons,”

Political figures that represent these sanctuary cities, such as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, have echoed this sentiment. “It’s illegal. It is just plain illegal. We will meet him in court. We will beat him in court,” De Blasio said.

California, a state which Trump directly called out in his tweet quoted above, also spoke against Trump’s proposition to move undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. California Governor Gavin Newsom, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, posed the following question regarding the contrast between Trump’s fervent support of deporting undocumented immigrants and new desire to “dump” these immigrants into California: “Which one is it, Mr. President?” Numerous other California officials, such as Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, had similar criticisms of the proposed plan. In response to Trump’s announcement, Garcetti tweeted that the immigrants in question “are people, not pawns.”

And California has not backed down from its stance on sanctuary cities, either. Just this week, a California court unanimously upheld most of three sanctuary laws designed to interfere with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement involvement in the state.

Few Republicans have outwardly supported the plan thus far as well. When asked about it, Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska responded, “We’ll see what they end up doing… I’m not sure, I haven’t been following it.” However, others have expressed their support. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota backed the plan, explaining,  “Given the administration’s limited options, releasing these immigrants into sanctuary cities may make the most sense until Congress is willing to change our immigration system.”

Others have spoken out in support of Trump as well, such as in this Washington Post piece from columnist Marc A. Piessen, on the grounds that Trump is directly addressing hypocrisies among Democrats and their stance on immigration. As Piessen writes, “[Democrats] can’t on one hand try to force Trump to release illegal immigrants, create sanctuaries for them and arrange local laws to encourage illegal immigrants to come to those sanctuaries, and then simultaneously be outraged that Trump wants to do exactly what [Democrats] have said should be done with those who cross our borders illegally.”

This plan has been repeatedly deemed illegal and overall implausible. It is unclear as to why Trump has even been pushing for it when he is so adamant about deporting illegal immigrants and increasing border security when the plan has the exact opposite implications; some believe he is doing so in an effort to call the Democrats’ bluff. Regardless, it is rather unlikely that this plan will ever come to fruition, but it is also possible that that is not the plan’s true purpose anyways.