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  • U.S. President Trump declares a national emergency at the southern border during a press conference at the White House in Washington.

    U.S. President Trump declares a national emergency at the southern border during a press conference at the White House in Washington. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 April 2019

Cities in the United States are classified as sanctuary cities when the local authorities promote and adhere to protocols which protect immigrants from being handed over to ICE for deportation.

Armed with a new measure to pressure Democrats into supporting stricter immigration policies, U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed sending undocumented immigrants to Democratic-held "sanctuary cities."

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Cities in the United States are classified as sanctuary cities when the local authorities promote and adhere to protocols which protect immigrants from being handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation. Sanctuary city local authorities, such as San Francisco, New York City and Chicago, are typically led by Democrats.

Two variations of the proposal have been floated around, so far. The first proposes to move undocumented immigrants who are already in detention to the selected cities. The second variation suggests directly transporting migrants who are apprehended at the Mexican border to the sanctuary cities. 

White House and Homeland Security officials have distanced themselves from the plan, claiming that the idea was swiftly rejected upon the proposal. Despite their insistence, Trump tweeted, only hours later, that Washington is "indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in sanctuary cities only."

Trump quipped that the plan should make Democrats "very happy" since "the radical left always seems to have an open borders, open arms policy." The proposal has received wide criticism centered on the idea that Trump is attempting to use migrants as pawns to go after his opponent.  

“They’re always saying they have open arms. Let’s see if they have open arms,” Trump said to reporters.

It has yet to be confirmed whether or not the president's tweets point to a revival of the proposal, or if officials were definite in their decision not to pursue the idea. 

The proposal also received backlash from Democrats, such as Representative Bennie Thompson, who said the plan “serves as a reminder that the Trump administration’s reckless immigration agenda is not about keeping the country safe, but about partisan politics and wantonly inflicting cruelty.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who resides in sanctuary city San Diego, referred to the idea as "unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a country, as a people, to address who we are - a nation of immigrants."

Even ICE came forward to denounce the plan, calling it "inappropriate" and citing the "PR risks" that would come with its approval. 

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