Trump administration officials sought to bus detained immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a way to retaliate against the president’s adversaries, officials said Thursday.
The Washington Post, which first reported the proposals, said lawyers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement rejected the idea as inappropriate. The newspaper cited email messages it had reviewed and interviews with officials of the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS.
DHS confirmed the broad outlines of the report Thursday night, saying in a statement: “This was a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”
The Post quoted DHS officials as saying the administration sought to release detainees in the San Francisco-based district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and in other strongly Democratic districts. It said the White House told ICE that the plan was partly meant to conserve jail space but also partly to “send a message to Democrats.”
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” a spokeswoman for Pelosi told The Post. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”
The Post reported that two DHS whistleblowers independently reported the busing plan to Congress and that several DHS officials confirmed their accounts. Two DHS officials said Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser who is widely reported to have assumed control of U.S. border policy, discussed the proposal with ICE, according to The Post.
“It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out,” a congressional investigator who has spoken to one of the whistleblowers told The Post. “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.”
“Sanctuary cities” is a term used to describe jurisdictions that limit or ban cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Trump has accused Democrats of trying to “turn America into one giant sanctuary city for violent criminals and MS-13 and other gang killers.”