Originally published by The LA Times
President Trump has thumbed his nose at Lady Liberty with his bizarre notion of shipping undocumented migrants to sanctuary cities that he erroneously says advocate open American borders.
In a particularly snide needling of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , he suggests they be sent to her hometown of San Francisco, a city designated as willing to welcome undocumented immigrants.
Pelosi has shot back: "It's just another indication that he is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges we face as a country, as a people, to address who we are as a nation of immigrants."
It's as if such refugees and their children, seeking haven from violence and possible death in their crime- and corruption-ridden homelands in Central America, are just so many cattle on the hoof. Thus does Trump trample on the very core of our founding principal of providing refuge to Emma Lazarus' "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Trump tweeted: "Just out. The USA has the absolute 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 for its poor management and high taxes."
Trump made clear he sees the sanctuary city concept not so much as a humanitarian notion but as dumping ground for disposing of a troublesome nuisance: "Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed ... giving strong considerations to placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities only." Then he snarled: "We can give them an unlimited supply," as if they are disposable diapers.
"So the question then becomes," White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told NPR, "do Democrats want to allow these people to be shipped into their communities? We looked at it and said, where are the logical places to kind of spread the wealth, if you will, and places like San Francisco, for example, or a sanctuary city, they are designed and set up specifically to have people there who aren't here legally. That's what their stated goal is, so there is no reason we shouldn't be looking at a way to give them exactly what they want."
A spokeswoman for Pelosi responded: "The extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated. Using human beings -- including little children -- as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable."
The federal government has reported that there were 103,492 undocumented migrants taken into custody on our southern border in March, mostly from the so-called Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They had taken the legal path of asylum, awaiting adjudication of their applications for resettlement.
What is a sanctuary city? In general, the term refers to U.S. municipalities that welcome undocumented immigrants and resist federal deportation policies as unconstitutional. In 2016, the Justice Department sued California over then-Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's noncompliance. In 2018, the Orange County Republican Board of Supervisors joined the suit, but four months later a federal judge upheld the sanctuary cities view.
In 2017, Trump signed an executive order instructing his secretary of homeland security to enforce noncompliance by sanctuary cities. But in December 2018, a federal judge ruled that the administration could not withhold grant funds from cities and states that failed to comply with the administration's immigration decrees. Independent studies have disputed that the presence of undocumented immigrants has a meaningful effect on crime rates.
Meanwhile, the president has declared that he will order the mass transfer of such individuals to sanctuary cities such as San Francisco and New York. Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland declared on Fox News: "There is no budget for that purpose. This is clearly a political move for the president. He's using immigrants as pawns in a political game of chess."
Trump makes the ludicrous argument that the United States is now "full" and has no more room for refugees from oppression in Central America. A Washington Post reader notes that according to the World Population Review, our 13 people per square mile rates us 175th in population density of 230 countries surveyed. Just another whopper from the Oval Office.
( Jules Witcover 's latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power," published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at email@example.com.)