Trump 'likes the idea' of sending migrants to sanctuary cities, spokeswoman says

William Cummings

President Donald Trump "likes the idea" of busing migrants who cross the border illegally to so-called sanctuary cities, and the administration is looking into ways to put the plan into practice, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

Last week, administration officials said the idea of sending migrants to sanctuary cities – loosely defined as jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement – was rejected. But in a series of tweets, the president said the administration is still "giving strong considerations" to the idea. 

When asked about the conflicting statements on ABC's "This Week,"  Sanders said it was initially determined that "logistically, there were a lot of challenges, and it probably didn't make sense to move forward, and the idea did not go further." 

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"We're looking to see if there are options that make it possible and doing a full and thorough and extensive review. The president likes the idea, and Democrats have said they want these individuals into their communities, so let's see if it works and everybody gets a win out of it," Sanders said. 

Despite Sanders portrayal of the proposal as a "win" for both sides, Trump presented the plan as a consequence for Democrats in a tweet Saturday. 

"Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants – and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW!" the president said. 

Sanders said Sunday that if congressional Democrats don't work with Trump on new legislation to stem the flow of migrants into the USA, they will have to "take on some of that burden in their communities." She said the plan was not the White House's "first choice" in addressing illegal immigration, "probably not even our second or third choice, but we have to look at all options as long as Democrats refuse to do their jobs and fix the problem." 

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., pushed back against the criticism that Democrats were unwilling to act on immigration in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." 

"If the president would support comprehensive immigration reform and work with Democrats and Republicans, we have the consensus to pass comprehensive immigration reform," Cardin said. "But the president doesn't want that to happen."

Cardin said it is important to address the reasons so many Central Americans migrate to the USA and said the president's threat to cut off aid to the impoverished nations they are fleeing undermined that objective. 

The Washington Post reported last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement counsel rejected the sanctuary city proposal after doing a legal review. But the president tweeted Saturday, "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!" 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "Trump has no right to spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes to ship immigrants all over the country" and that he should not use migrants "as pawns in a fight against political opponents."

"He shouldn't use them as what he imagines as retribution to political opponents in various areas. It's another misuse of presidential power," Nadler said. 

When asked about Trump's proposal on "State of the Union," Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said he didn't "know whether it's legal or illegal." 

"I mean, maybe he's just saying this to make everybody crazy" and "make everybody talk about" it, Scott said.

"Sanctuary cities are illegal," Scott said. "You don't get to pick and choose" which laws to follow. 

Several Democratic mayors were defiant in the face of Trump's proposal. "This is just another in a long line of scare tactics and half-baked ideas that are just about chasing headlines and distracting people from real issues," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a tweet Friday. "In SF we are proud to be a sanctuary city and we’ll continue to stand up for all of our residents."

"What President Trump fails to understand is that America is a sanctuary country," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "Not only does hate have no home in Chicago, but, as a welcoming city, we would welcome these migrants with open arms." 

"If @realDonaldTrump wants to use our immigrant communities like chess pieces in his sick political game, we’ll beat him in court. Again," tweeted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

Sanctuary cities have been a target for Trump since he took office. Last year, his administration tried to stop federal money from going to jurisdictions considered "sanctuaries" for undocumented immigrants. In several court rulings, judges blocked those attempts. 

Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen and Alan Gomez

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump 'likes the idea' of sending migrants to sanctuary cities, spokeswoman says