President Donald Trump confirmed Friday he was considering “placing” undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities as political retribution for Democrats opposing his immigration policies.
In a series of tweets, he confirmed reporting that he was personally pushing then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to release immigrants who had been detained at the southern border into “sanctuary cities,” a non-legal term that refers to cities where local law enforcement officials can choose not to turn over undocumented immigrants for federal deportation proceedings. Many of these cities are in states that Trump did not win in the 2016 election, and the president has spent the last two years targeting them in various proposals.
Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2019
….The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2019
Under the proposal, detained immigrants would be transported and released in sanctuary cities, a non-legal term that refers to cities where local law enforcement officials can choose not to turn over undocumented immigrants for federal deportation proceedings.
Many sanctuary cities are clustered in states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and urban areas that decisively rejected his candidacy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) district was included in the target cities, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials who spoke with The Washington Post, which first reported the story.
This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to target blue districts.
In his 2016 election victory speech, Trump promised the American people that he would govern in a unifying way for the benefit of supporters and critics alike. “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. We have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time,” he vowed. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans. And this is so important to me.” This was a lie.
But so far, acts that attempt to favor states and localities that backed him in 2016 and disfavor those that did not, have been a hallmark of his presidency.
“Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne, on Trump’s proposal to send immigrants to the communities that have rejected his hardline immigration policies.
Trump has targeted “sanctuary” jurisdictions before. In January 2017, he issued Executive Order 13768 which attempted to ensure that they are “are not eligible to receive Federal grants.” The order was deemed to be an illegal overreach in a 2 to 1 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year.
Trump’s 2017 tax bill reduced taxes for himself, other very wealthy people, and corporations, but included provisions that favored Trump states over Clinton states. By greatly reducing state and local tax deductions, the bill actually increased the tax burden for many in states like Illinois (where Clinton beat Trump 55% to 38%), California (where Clinton won 61% to 31%), New Jersey (where Clinton won 55% to 41%) and New York (where Clinton won 59% to 37%).
Trump has frequently targeted California, a state he lost by four million votes, for special punishment. Earlier this year, amid massive forest fires, he tweeted that he was instructing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stop providing assistance. (It’s not clear whether he has actually done this, despite the threats.)
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
Weeks later, he moved to pull funding for a bullet-train project in California and demanded that the state repay the federal government for the money it had received. Trump had previously promised to be the “greatest infrastructure president in the nation’s history” and criticized the lack of progress on high-speed rail in the nation.
California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2019
Though Puerto Rico is not yet a state, it also has been a target for Trump’s retribution. Most members of the Puerto Rican community who vote in the United States opposed Trump in 2016. A Univision poll released in November 2016 found Americans of Puerto Rican decent favored Clinton by a 71% to 19% margin. After its citizens objected to the administration’s failed response to Hurricane Maria, Trump blamed the American territory for the crisis.
…We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017
Trump attempted to block all emergency funding from going to Puerto Rico, according to a January 2019 article in The Washington Post, attempting to send their disaster relief money to Florida and Texas instead. Trump carried both states in 2016.
Unlike those previous attempts, this aborted scheme to send immigrants to anti-Trump states and cities would have been unlikely to actually harm his enemies.
The plan would only be a punishment in the mind of someone, who like Trump, sees those who are coming across the southern border as “rapists” and “bringing drugs [and] bringing crime.
In reality, study after study has shown that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans and contribute significantly to the economy and their communities. Were the Trump administration to knowingly send actual violent criminals into American communities, it would seem to undermine his 2017 inauguration address claim that he would immediate end the “American carnage” of crime in cities.
Voters in blue states should probably expect more retaliation in the future. Trump’s former chief White House strategist and 2016 campaign chief executive, Steve Bannon, all but admitted that this is Trump’s thinking. Asked this week by Politico about what a second Trump term would look like, he predicted: “You’re going to get pure Trump off the chain. Four years of Donald Trump in payback mode.”
This story has been updated to include Trump’s new tweets.