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House Probe Launched Into Trump’s Proposal Targeting Sanctuary Cities

Man holds a sign that says "proud to live in a sanctuary city." On Saturday, February 4, 2017 the March for Humanity was held in Philadelphia to show support for immigration and refugees, among other things.
On Saturday, February 4, 2017 the March for Humanity was held in Philadelphia to show support for immigration and refugees, among other things. (photo: 7beachbum)

“Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held…will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!”

House committee chairs have requested documents from the White House and Department of Homeland Security on President Trump’s proposition to send detained migrants to “sanctuary cities.” President Trump stirred up controversy regarding the legality of sending undocumented migrants to sanctuary cities in an April 13 tweet:

“Just out: 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!”

The president reinforced his proposal on Monday, tweeting, “Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held…will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!”

Three House committee chairmen, Reps. Elijah Cummings, Bennie Thompson, and Jerry Nadler, sent a letter challenging the legality of Trump’s proposal and requesting documents on internal decision-making, saying: “Not 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.”

The plan was reportedly first rejected by ICE officials in November 2018.

Illegal Immigration Central to Trump Administration

The president has made the dangers of migrants a centerpiece of his platform, warning Americans, “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” and claiming the migrant caravan from Honduras contained terrorists.

No evidence shows migrants or asylum seekers commit more crimes than citizens, and the State Department has said there was no evidence of terrorists entering the United States through the southern border. But if President Trump earnestly feels detained migrants are a grave danger to the American people, critics question his decision to grant them asylum in U.S. cities.

Supporters of the policy say migrants would want to stay where they are welcome, but critics feel it would incentivize more asylum seekers to come to the U.S. with guaranteed refuge in certain cities. Migrants would also be able to move from their sanctuary cities to other areas of the United States. Critics say the policy would contradict President Trump’s alleged aims of restricting immigration and is purely a political maneuver.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told NPR Democrats should view the president’s proposal as a gesture of goodwill, saying, “It’s not political retribution. If anything, you should consider it on the Democrat side to be an olive branch.”

Sanctuary Cities Respond

Despite the pushback from major House Democrats, some “sanctuary city” Mayors have expressed openness to the President’s idea and willing to receive the immigrants.

Mayor Marc McGovern of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said, “I am proud that Cambridge is a sanctuary city. … Trump is a schoolyard bully who tries to intimidate and threaten people. I’m not intimidated and if asylum seekers find their way to Cambridge, we’ll welcome them.”

Similarly, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, said, “The city would be prepared to welcome these immigrants just as we have embraced our immigrant communities for decades.”

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, categorically rejected the proposal and said he would challenge the president in court:

“I remember vividly the day early in the Trump administration when he said he was going to cut our security funding because we did not ask for documentation status, because we would not cooperate with everything ICE was doing. We said we would go to court to stop him and we did. So this is just patently illegal. We’ll stop it.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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