White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday that the Trump administration was still considering whether to place some immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities.
“Look, this is an option on the table,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Sanders said the move would not be President Donald Trump’s “first choice” but remained something the administration might do. She said when the idea was brought up “at a staff level,” the administration had not moved forward with it because “logistically, there were a lot of challenges and it probably didn’t make sense to move forward,” but was now under consideration again.
“The President heard the idea, he likes it, so – well, we’re looking to see if there are options that make it possible and doing a full and thorough and extensive review,” Sanders said.
Trump confirmed on Friday that his administration was looking at the idea of releasing immigrants into so-called sanctuary cities in part to retaliate against Democrats, undercutting earlier denials from his own administration officials.
The term “sanctuary city” is a broad term generally taken to refer to locales that have limited cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, and many of the largest cities in the country have such policies in place.
Trump has long railed against “sanctuary” policies, and in response to reports of the latest considered moves, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the Trump administration of “using human beings – including little children – as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants.”
Trump Twitter claims
The comments from the chief White House spokesperson came a day after Trump asserted on Twitter that “the USA has the absolute legal 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 & high taxes!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has sought to paint undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers as undesirable and claimed in a tweet on Saturday that Oakland, California, Democratic Mayor Libby Schaaf and other mayors of so-called “sanctuary cities” did not want “our currently ‘detained immigrants.’ ”
Schaaf told CNN on Friday that the considered move would be an “outrageous abuse of power” and said in response to Trump on Saturday that he was wrong about her position.
“It’s time to stop fanning hate and division @realDonaldTrump - I’ve been consistent and clear: #Oakland welcomes all, no matter where you came from or how you got here,” she said on Twitter.
Several Democrats took to the airwaves on Sunday and rebuked Trump’s move.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump “has no right to spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes to ship immigrants all over the country.”
“Nor is it right for the President to use immigrants or people who are claiming political asylum as pawns in a fight against political opponents,” Nadler said. “He shouldn’t use them as what he imagines as retribution to political opponents in various areas.”
Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, a declared presidential candidate, likewise knocked Trump for the idea, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it was “yet another act of bombastic chaos” and “simply is not going to work for this ineffective president, for several reasons.”
“Number one, look, you can’t threaten somebody with something they’re not afraid of,” Inslee said. “And we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington. We relish it.”
In a separate interview on CNN Sunday morning, Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott said he did not know whether or not the policy would be legal.
“I don’t know whether it’s legal or illegal,” Scott said. “I mean, maybe he’s just saying this to make everybody crazy, make everybody talk about it on their shows.”
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Evan Perez contributed to this report.