The idea makes no sense at all, but that’s never stopped government before. According to both ABC and the Washington Post, the Trump administration had discussions about dumping detained illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities, presumably as retaliation. In the end no one bought it, and it’s a headscratcher as to what anyone thought it would accomplish:
Trump administration officials engaged in conversations as recently as February about a plan to punish political rivals by transferring immigrants detained at the southern border onto the streets of “sanctuary cities,” senior government officials familiar with the matter confirm to ABC News.
One White House official acknowledged the existence of the discussions in a statement to ABC, but says it’s no longer being considered.
“This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion,” the White House official said.
That’s, er, not a denial. The White House dismissed this as nothing more than a spitballing session, but both ABC and the Washington Post say the idea came up more than once. In fact, it got passed around enough to where attorneys at Homeland Security agencies conducted a review of the idea:
White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” places where local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.
The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of detention space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”
After the White House pressed again in February, ICE’s legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration.
The Post got the same “floated and rejected” statement from both the White House and Homeland Security, which means someone got the talking points around in a hurry. It’s not explicitly inaccurate, but it sounds like spin if it got “floated” past the lawyers. That’s not just a spitballing exercise.
What exactly would be the purpose of such a policy? Yes, dumping illegals into sanctuary cities might mildly inconvenience Democratic administrations within them, but those administrations had all but hired Tom Bodett to tell border crossers that they would leave the light on for them. The catch-and-release policy practically guarantees that illegal immigrants would end up in those cities anyway. A program to purposely dump them into those cities was not only unnecessary, it would have been too complicated to keep quiet for long. How do you transport hundreds of people from the border to San Francisco, for example, without anyone noticing?
If the purpose was to make the border look like an emergency, it’s even less comprehensible. The place to show an emergency at the border is at the border, not diffused across thousands of cities and towns across America. And there is already a legitimate crisis at the border, as even some former Obama administration officials are beginning to admit. Why would anyone want to distract the focus away from it as a political strategy?
And, as everyone pointed out, it was also likely illegal. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, but perhaps more cooler heads are needed. Or wiser ones.