US immigration officials were encouraged by the White House to drop detained undocumented immigrants off in so-called “sanctuary cities” as retaliation against Democratic lawmakers, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
White House officials floated the idea at least twice, according to Homeland Security emails reviewed by The Post and unnamed DHS officials. Both instances occurred when the Trump administration faced fierce opposition against its immigration policies.
The White House initially proposed the idea in November as a Central American migrant caravan traveled towards the US border, The Post reported. The White House asked multiple agencies if it could detain the migrants at the border and then transport them to sanctuary cities.
The proposal was floated again in February, one month after Trump and Democratic lawmakers were at an impasse over funding for the president’s proposed border wall.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was one of the sanctuary city drop-off points mentioned in the plan, Homeland Security officials said in The Post.
White House officials reportedly believed that the benefit would be two-fold: the plan would address the limited space in detention centers and be a warning to Democrats.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, one of the Trump administration’s immigration hardliners, was one of the advocates of the plan, Homeland Security officials said to The Post.
“It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out,” a congressional investigator who spoke to a DHS whistleblower reportedly said. “What happened here is that Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts.”
Trump also pushed for implementing the plan, according to separate CNN report. Trump was said to have encouraged former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to execute the idea, which Nielsen reportedly resisted. She resigned from her post on Sunday, and several other top DHS officials also left the department in recent days.
The idea was reportedly rejected by attorneys and officials at ICE, who believed it was inappropriate and had the potential to become a public relations crisis.
According to CNN, “Miller was angered that DHS lawyers refused to produce legal guidance that would make the plan viable, saying the proposal would likely be illegal.”
In a statement to The Post, the White House it was “just a suggestion” that was rejected and “ended any further discussion.”
Trump frequently rails against Democratic lawmakers and their support of sanctuary cities. Trump characterizes the cities as places rife with “dangerous and violent criminal aliens,” despite some statistics showing a downward trend for violent crime in most major cities.