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.
An official at the Department of Homeland Security released a nearly identical statement asserting that the discussion is now over.
Sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco and New York City, do not cooperate with the federal government in complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests.
The proposal, first reported by The Washington Post, would have targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco, among other Democratic strongholds, according to these officials.
“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” said Ashley Etienne, Pelosi’s communications director.
“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,” she added. “The American people have resoundingly rejected this Administration’s toxic anti-immigrant policies, and Democrats will continue to advance immigration policies that keep us safe and honor our values.”
The proposal was under discussion in November and February, according to these officials. During both of those months, President Donald Trump was aggressively seeking a political win on border issues. In November, a migrant caravan was approaching the border in the heat of the midterm elections. In February, he was involved in budget negotiations with Democrats over the border wall.
News of this discussion comes the same week Trump appeared to lament the loss of his child separation policy. While he refuted reports that there were discussions about bringing the policy back, he blamed the recent surge in border crossings on the fact that the policy was ended.