Should President Trump follow through on an idea to release migrants in U.S. “sanctuary cities,” it would be a major departure from the way federal agencies are handling detainees. The plan could also be prohibitively costly and make it more difficult to deport migrants once they reach those cities, reports the Washington Post. The plan would have the Department of Homeland Security moving migrants from detention centers to cities scattered across the U.S. in vans, buses and airplanes. It would require a massive investment in transportation infrastructure, something that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told the White House would be “an unnecessary operational burden.” It would mean placing those detainees in cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, meaning it could be very difficult to arrest them again. During the recent surge of Central American families crossing into the U.S., most were apprehended at or near the border with Mexico. With a deficit of detention beds, the U.S. government mainly releases the families to shelters or bus depots.
Detainees are sometimes released directly to the streets of border towns. Trump’s proposal, aimed at punishing Democratic strongholds for their positions on immigration policy, calls for sending the detainees to sanctuary cities, where they can live without fear of local authorities reporting them to federal immigration officials. There are hundreds of sanctuary jurisdictions, ranging from tiny rural counties to New York City and the state of California. Mayors of such cities condemned the White House plan, with most dismissing it as an unrealistic political stunt. Some already have waged successful legal battles against the Trump administration’s threat two years ago to slash federal funding to sanctuary cities. San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the plan “just another in a long line of scare tactics and half-baked ideas.”