‘Sanc­tu­ary cities’ idea seen as worth a look

Trump aide calls it an im­mi­gra­tion op­tion


WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wants to ex­plore a twice-re­jected pro­posal to send mi­grants to “sanc­tu­ary cities,” but that is not the pre­ferred so­lu­tion to fix the strain­ing im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, the White House said Sun­day.

Press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said it was one of many op­tions, though she hoped Congress would work with the pres­i­dent on a com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion overhaul.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is deal­ing with an ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants cross­ing the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, an in­flux that has pushed the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to the break­ing point, of­fi­cials say.

Laws make it hard to quickly re­turn Cen­tral Amer­i­cans, and many of them spend years in the U.S. wait­ing for their im­mi­gra­tion cases to play out. Oth­ers claim asy­lum and wait just as long, liv­ing and work­ing in the U.S. as they wait.

“Sanc­tu­ary cities” in­clude places such as New York City and San Fran­cisco where laws pro­hibit lo­cal po­lice and cor­rec­tion of­fi­cers from work­ing with im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to help ar­rest and de­port peo­ple liv­ing there il­le­gally.

Trump seized on re­ports last week of the pro­posal that

sought to send mi­grants al­ready de­tained to Demo­cratic strongholds or trans­port mi­grants who have just crossed the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der to sanc­tu­ary cities.

San­ders said the idea would be to spread out the num­ber of mi­grants so the strain would not be on “one or two bor­der com­mu­ni­ties.”

“The pres­i­dent likes the idea and Democrats have said they want th­ese in­di­vid­u­als into their com­mu­ni­ties so let’s see if it works and every­body gets a win out of it,” San­ders said. “Again, this is not the ideal sit­u­a­tion.”

San­ders spoke on ABC’s This Week and Fox News Sun­day

In a Sun­day ap­pear­ance on NBC News’ Meet the Press, White House coun­selor Kellyanne Conway ac­cused an “un­se­ri­ous Congress” of not tak­ing tougher ac­tion to stop mi­grants from cross­ing into the coun­try.

“The Repub­li­cans failed to do their job when they were in charge, no doubt,” she said. “And the Democrats now are fail­ing to come to­gether in the House.”

Trump tweeted Satur­day evening that the U.S. had the “ab­so­lute le­gal right to have ap­pre­hended il­le­gal im­mi­grants trans­ferred to Sanc­tu­ary Cities.”

But the plan had al­ready been es­chewed twice.

Peo­ple with knowl­edge of the dis­cus­sions say it was first pre­sented to the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity by the White House staff in Novem­ber, and was again dis­cussed in Fe­bru­ary but was put down af­ter Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials re­viewed it and found it was too costly, a mis­use of funds and would be too timely. The peo­ple were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

It could make it more dif­fi­cult for Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cers to ar­rest peo­ple fac­ing de­por­ta­tion be­cause sanc­tu­ary cities do not work with the agency, sta­tis­tics show.

The Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house at Syra­cuse Univer­sity an­nounced last week that an anal­y­sis found that mi­grants in sanc­tu­ary cities are 20 per­cent less likely to be ar­rested out in the com­mu­nity than in cities with­out such poli­cies.

Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., mean­while, said Sun­day that he is plan­ning to in­tro­duce a new im­mi­gra­tion pack­age af­ter the Sen­ate re­turns from re­cess, al­though he did not give an ex­act date.

The leg­is­la­tion “will de­ter peo­ple from Cen­tral Amer­ica from con­tin­u­ing to come, change our asy­lum laws, make sure you have more than 20 days to deal with an un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nor and send peo­ple back to Cen­tral Amer­ica,” Gra­ham said on Fox News Chan­nel’s Sun­day Morn­ing Fu­tures.

The South Carolina lawmaker made clear that the White House and Re­pub­li­can lead­ers in the Sen­ate were reach­ing out to their Demo­cratic col­leagues to get bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the pack­age.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing

around Congress talk­ing to Democrats about what they want if we do change the laws, what they would like in re­turn,” Gra­ham said. “I’m go­ing to try to find a com­pro­mise here.”

Democrats crit­i­cized the White House sanc­tu­ary city pro­posal as a po­lit­i­cal stunt that uses hu­mans as pawns and will not work.

“Look, you can’t threaten some­body with some­thing they’re not afraid of,” Gov. Jay Inslee of Wash­ing­ton state, a can­di­date for pres­i­dent, said on Meet the Press. “And we are not afraid of di­ver­sity in the state of Wash­ing­ton. We rel­ish it. It is the ba­sis of our eco­nomic and cul­tural suc­cess. We’re built as a state of im­mi­grants.”

The chair­man of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, D-Miss., ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of the pro­posal.

“This is again his man­u­fac­tured chaos that he’s cre­ated over the last two years on the bor­der,” Thomp­son said of Trump, adding that Democrats are more than will­ing to sit down and talk about im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion.

“Be­fore Don­ald Trump took of­fice, we had a sit­u­a­tion that was man­age­able — we had spikes, but it also went down. But what we have now is a con­stant push­ing of the sys­tem so that it doesn’t work,” Thomp­son said on ABC. “Rather than be­ing puni­tive, the pres­i­dent has to step up and pro­vide real lead­er­ship, which he’s failed to do on im­mi­gra­tion.”

But Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speak­ing on CNN’s State of the Union, said sanc­tu­ary cities show con­tempt for the law, though he didn’t know if there are any le­gal con­cerns with trans­port­ing mi­grants to the lo­cales.

“I mean, maybe he’s just say­ing this to make every­body crazy,” he said of Trump.

In his Satur­day tweets, Trump specif­i­cally sin­gled out the Demo­cratic mayor of Oak­land, Calif., Libby Schaaf, who has crit­i­cized a pro­posed pol­icy to re­lo­cate de­tained mi­grants to sanc­tu­ary cities as an “abuse of power and pub­lic re­sources.”

Then the pres­i­dent claimed that she does not ac­tu­ally want the de­tained mi­grants to be re­leased into her city. In fact, Schaaf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion strength­ened Oak­land’s sanc­tu­ary pol­icy in 2018 and warned res­i­dents last year of an up­com­ing raid by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

On Satur­day night, she re­sponded to Trump’s at­tack with a clear mes­sage: “Oak­land wel­comes all.”

Speak­ing Fri­day on CNN, Schaaf de­cried what she called Trump’s “out­ra­geous abuse of power and pub­lic re­sources.”

“The idea that the ad­min­is­tra­tion thought in any way that it would be ac­cept­able to use fam­i­lies and chil­dren, hu­man be­ings, as po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion against their en­e­mies should in­fu­ri­ate ev­ery Amer­i­can re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.”

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