Trump’s idea for sanc­tu­ary cities raises le­gal doubts


The bor­der de­bate has once again been up­ended by Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­plo­ration of a plan to take il­le­gal im­mi­grants nabbed at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der and ship them to sanc­tu­ary cities for re­lease.

In the ab­stract, the idea could have re­lieved some of the pres­sure on bor­der com­mu­ni­ties over­whelmed by the surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, who are be­ing caught and re­leased onto their streets. But in the hands of Mr. Trump, it has be­come a tool of po­lit­i­cal pay­back, rais­ing ques­tions of le­gal­ity.

Mr. Trump, in a se­ries of tweets and com­ments to re­porters over the past few days, con­firmed that he is con­sid­er­ing the move nonethe­less. He has sug­gested that Democrats in Wash­ing­ton have a choice be­tween help­ing solve the prob­lem at the bor­der or hav­ing their home

states and dis­tricts — which are of­ten the sites of sanc­tu­ary cities — be­come destinations for tens of thou­sands of mi­grants a month.

“Democrats must change the Im­mi­gra­tion Laws FAST,” Mr. Trump said in a mes­sage on Twit­ter. “If not, Sanc­tu­ary Cities must im­me­di­ately ACT to take care of the Il­le­gal Im­mi­grants — and this in­cludes Gang Mem­bers, Drug Deal­ers, Hu­man Traf­fick­ers, and Crim­i­nals of all shapes, sizes and kinds.”

At least one sanc­tu­ary city leader said to bring it on.

Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, said she will wel­come any­one.

“I’ve been con­sis­tent and clear,” she said. “Oak­land wel­comes all, no mat­ter where you came from or how you got here.”

Whether other sanc­tu­ar­ies make sim­i­lar of­fers re­mains to be seen.

But com­mu­ni­ties on the bor­der say they need some­thing to change.

Las Cruces, New Mex­ico, man­aged to es­cape the past 30 years of bor­der prob­lems, but the lat­est surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica is hit­ting the city hard.

Smug­glers have started fun­nel­ing the mi­grants to re­mote ar­eas of the bor­der, such as the deserts of south­ern New Mex­ico. Un­like surges of decades past, the cur­rent flow of mi­grants has fig­ured out how to ex­ploit loop­holes to gain a foothold in the U.S., forc­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to process and re­lease the mi­grants into bor­der­state cities.

State of­fi­cials ap­pealed for the com­mu­nity to do­nate food and per­sonal items to help care for the mi­grants.

Bob­bie MacKen­zie, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor for the New Mex­ico Med­i­cal Re­serve Corps, asked for pe­di­a­tri­cians, nurses and EMTs to step for­ward and vol­un­teer.

“We need more. This is go­ing to be an on­go­ing event,” the co­or­di­na­tor told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “We’re try­ing to not to inun­date and over­whelm the vol­un­teers.”

More than 100,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants, most of them chil­dren and fam­i­lies, surged into the U.S. last month and of­fi­cials said this month could be as high as 150,000. There are fewer than 3,000 beds to hold fam­i­lies in de­ten­tion, so the govern­ment has re­in­stated “catch and re­lease.”

Mr. Trump on Fri­day con­firmed that he has thought about ship­ping them fur­ther in­side the U.S.

“Cal­i­for­nia cer­tainly is al­ways say­ing, ‘Oh, we want more peo­ple,’ and they want more peo­ple in their sanc­tu­ary cities. Well, we’ll give them more peo­ple. We’ll give them a lot. We can give them an un­lim­ited sup­ply,” he said.

“Let’s see if they have open arms,” he added. Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, New York Demo­crat and chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of Mr. Trump’s idea.

“It’s an­other mis­use of pres­i­den­tial power against the law,” Mr. Nadler told CNN’s “State of the Union” pro­gram.

The con­gress­man said Mr. Trump may have bro­ken the law al­ready if he did prom­ise act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kevin McAleenan a par­don if he is too ag­gres­sive in try­ing to stop il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

CNN re­ported last week that Mr. Trump said that to Mr. McAleenan while they were at the bor­der to­gether this month. CNN re­ported the pres­i­dent may have been jok­ing.

Mr. Nadler was non­plussed.

“This just shows the pres­i­dent’s con­tempt for law,” he said.

Mr. Trump is des­per­ately search­ing for op­tions to stop the flow of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. He said Fri­day that he will de­ploy more troops to the bor­der and pon­der his sanc­tu­ary cities move.

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