The White House wanted to send a message to Democrats by sending buses of apprehended migrants to "sanctuary cities" that refuse to hand over undocumented immigrants for deportation, according to emails seen by the Washington Post. The move was apparently proposed at least twice in the last six months, including on Nov. 16, when a "caravan" of migrants was approaching the border. White House officials asked agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement whether detained migrants due to be released in border towns could be "bused to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities" instead. ICE officials told the White House that there would be liability—and PR—issues, and that paying money to transport migrants around the country would not be seen as a "justified expenditure."
Sources say the White House continued to pressure agencies to implement the idea, though it backed off when Democrats agreed to extra funding for immigration detention beds. "This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion," a White House official said in a statement Thursday night. Department of Homeland Security whistleblowers say the White House proposed sending the migrants to districts represented by Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district, the New York Times reports. "The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated," Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne said Thursday, accusing the administration of using people "as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants." (Read more sanctuary cities stories.)