In what amounts to another “the hits just keep on comin'” moment, e-mail messages reviewed by the Washington Post show that on at least two occasions over the past six months, the Trump administration attempted to pressure US immigration authorities to flood the streets of sanctuary cities with illegal immigrants.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Surely, you must be joking.”
Unfortunately, we’re not joking. Donald Trump actually sought to compel agencies to round up detained immigrants and literally dump them into the districts of the president’s political foes.
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target [and] the administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds”, WaPo says, citing DHS officials.
As alluded to above, WaPo didn’t just rely on the accounts of possibly disgruntled DHS employees who have been laboring under an increasingly insane immigration policy designed by top aide Stephen Miller. Rather, the Post got their hands on some e-mails. Just read this insanity:
White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities.”
The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of detention space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”
Yes, that idea was “rife with liability concerns” and also carried considerable “PR risks”, which is a pretty euphemistic way of communicating to the White House that the plan was stone, cold crazy. Here is what May Davis, deputy assistant to the president and deputy White House policy coordinator, actually wrote in an e-mail to ICE and DHS that carried the subject line “Sanctuary City Proposal”:
The idea has been raised by 1-2 principals that, if we are unable to build sufficient temporary housing, that caravan members be bussed to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities.
Of course bad optics and illegality have never stopped Trump before, which explains why he again raised the issue in February. At that point, ICE’s legal department literally “rejected the idea” calling it “inappropriate”.
Now you’d think, given how absolutely terrible this sounds, that the White House would make some kind of half-hearted effort to explain itself, but instead, they simply said that “this was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”
See there? No big deal – this was “just a suggestion” that Trump “floated”, no different and no more consequential than, say, asking whether everyone wants KFC for lunch instead of McDonald’s.
Nancy Pelosi didn’t see it that way, though.
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” her spokeswoman said, adding that “using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”
Even that understates the case. This “plan” is borderline psychopathic, which isn’t surprising considering it was allegedly orchestrated by – guess who? – Stephen Miller, who “discussed the proposal with ICE” according to two DHS officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, likely fearing retaliation at a time when Miller is busy purging various departments.
Read more on Miller’s purge
ICE’s deputy director admitted that this was in fact floated, but claimed, through a spokesperson, that he wasn’t “pressured by anyone at the White House.”
That assumes you can somehow characterize an idea that emanates from the Oval Office as something other than an attempt to apply “pressure”. One assumes there’s always “pressure” associated with calls from the White House and that goes double for discussions with this administration and triple for discussions with this administration about immigration.
Although Miller’s name didn’t actually appear in any of documents reviewed by WaPo, ICE officials are said to have “understood” that he was behind the idea.
This is another one of those times when we would gently remind everyone that these “trial balloons” from the administration are treading dangerously close to the kinds of policies that could eventually lead to very, very dark places. And we won’t elaborate on exactly what we mean by that, but the allusion should be clear. The worry is that if these are the kinds of “plans” that are actually finding their way into e-mails and other correspondence, what’s being discussed behind closed doors among Trump and Miller might be something ghastly or even macabre.
Here’s a sample of Trump’s sanctuary cities tweets (and this is obviously to say nothing of all the times he’s lambasted them at rallies):
For now, we’ll just leave you with a quote from a congressional investigator who spoke to the Post:
What happened here is that Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding, you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts.