“Using human beings as pawns is despicable.”
The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded Friday to a scuttled White House proposal that would have released immigrant detainees in San Francisco and other sanctuary cities, calling the plan “despicable.”
According to a Thursday report in the Washington Post, the White House twice proposed sending the detainees to sanctuary cities, including those in Pelosi’s district.
Trump confirmed on Friday that his administration had considered and is still considering implementing the plan.
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 idea was first proposed in November as a migrant caravan with thousands of people was making its from Central America to the southern border. It was brought up a second time in February while Trump was battling Congress over border wall funding.
In a statement, Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne accused the administration of using human beings as political pawns.
“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” Etienne said. “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.”
“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,” Etienne added.
Officials familiar with the proposal stressed that it never gained any traction.
In a November email, the White House asked several agencies whether it would be possible to bus arrested migrants to “small-and mid-sized sanctuary cities”. Among other Democratic strongholds, Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was considered a target according to the Washington Post report.
The White House told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the proposal was meant to alleviate crowded detention centers, but ICE noted there were budgetary and liability issues associated with the idea. ICE also worried about the PR risks associated with the idea.
The White House argued in a statement that the idea was not viewed as political retribution.
“This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion,” the White House said in a statement to the Post.
Deputy ICE Director Matt Albence told the Post he was not pressured to pursue the proposal by the White House.
“As the Acting Deputy I was not pressured by anyone at the White House on this issue. I was asked my opinion and provided it and my advice was heeded,” Albence said. “The email exchange is clear and suggesting that it indicates inappropriate pressure is inaccurate.”
Trump has repeatedly clashed with Democrats over the issue of illegal immigration in recent months. After his plan to secure border wall funding failed to gain traction in Congress, Trump declared a national emergency on the border.
The move made it possible to redirect already allocated federal funds for use on the wall, but caused outrage from Democrats who claimed the declaration was an overreach of executive power.