A White House plan to bus migrant detainees into sanctuary cities and release them there as political punishment for Democrats is a stunningly malicious and inhumane idea, even by the standards of the Trump administration.
The administration initially shrugged off the plan as something briefly considered but rejected. But President Donald Trump, as he is apt to do, contradicted his own people and announced on Twitter he still wants to carry it out. "The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy - so this should make them very happy!" he tweeted.
House Democrats should convene hearings to determine whether actual steps were taken — and to send Trump a clear warning that any attempt to carry it out now will have consequences as bad or worse than the public-relations savaging he received for his family-separation debacle. This administration's zeal for traumatizing migrants and asylum-seekers for political gain must be confronted.
Sanctuary cities are those that declare a refusal to cooperate with federal authorities requesting extended detention of undocumented immigrants arrested by local police. This newspaper has argued that, however well-meaning the sanctuary movement might be, blind refusal to cooperate with federal law enforcement efforts is indefensible — whether the law pertains to immigration, gun control or any other topic.
But that doesn't justify White House attempts to punish the Democrats who tend to dominate in sanctuary cities. As first reported Thursday by The Washington Post, the White House recently pressed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport detained immigrants to targeted sanctuary cities and release them, to send a message to Democrats who have opposed Trump on immigration. "It was retaliation, to show them, 'Your lack of cooperation has impacts,'" said one source.
The White House dismissed it as "just a suggestion that was floated and rejected." In truth, ICE reportedly rejected it after concluding it was probably illegal. And the White House nonetheless pressed for it a second time, and was rebuffed again.
Trump, responding to media reports about the shuttered plan, declared on Twitter it was still under consideration. "Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws," he wrote, "we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's California district was among those the administration wants to target. A statement from her office says it best: "Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable."
Indeed. This time, instead of mass detentions, Trump wants to drop immigrant families into distant cities where they have no connections, for the express purpose of agitating his political opponents. House Democrats must put a glaring spotlight on these twisted plans and keep it there.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH