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Trump Supports Sending Migrants To Sanctuary Cities


What does President Trump intend to do about what he has described as a crisis on the border? Over the weekend, the president promoted an idea that his administration had previously rejected. Days of news coverage have played up the idea that the president would order migrants who were detained at the border to be bused to so-called sanctuary cities across the country. In Minnesota yesterday, the president expressed doubts that asylum-seekers are really asylum-seekers.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And they're saying, we need protection from our country. In the meantime, they're carrying their country's flag thousands, 2,000 miles walking up the journey. It's a big con job. That's what it is.

INSKEEP: Adam Kennedy is the White House deputy director of communications. And he's on the line once again. Welcome back to the program.

ADAM KENNEDY: Thanks for having me on, Steve.

INSKEEP: I want to understand this idea of busing people to sanctuary cities. This is an idea - according to the reporting, which I think the White House has acknowledged - that was knocked down by staff, knocked down by Homeland Security lawyers as possibly illegal. Why did they find it to be possibly illegal?

KENNEDY: Well, first of all, I think there was a very narrow option being looked at originally. When the president heard about this idea, he was very interested. And now there is more expansive options being looked at. And I think the real question is, why should the same four cities along the border face the brunt of illegal immigration day in and day out when we have numerous cities across this country that, through their rhetoric and policies, say they want more illegal immigration?

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that. You know that once people are bused at government expense to San Francisco or Chicago or New Orleans or Columbus, Ohio, they can go elsewhere, right?

KENNEDY: Oh, of course. Nobody's going to stop them from going elsewhere. So the question is, why is...

INSKEEP: So what's the point of spending - what's the point of spending money to take them somewhere when they're just going to go somewhere else?

KENNEDY: Because it's a huge burden for charity organizations, government NGOs in the four main cities along the border that receive the brunt of this to be the intake for all of it. Why can't cities throughout this country who have stated through policy and rhetoric that they want illegal immigrants in their towns to accept them into their communities? And if they - if the immigrants choose to move, that's - well, they can move.

INSKEEP: It is true - it is...

KENNEDY: But the cities shouldn't be the ones to say no. They should be accepting this. They should be welcoming this.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that. It is true that a lot of people, lot of leaders in - lot of jurisdictions have said, people who are here illegally are actually part of the community, that they work jobs, that they contribute. That is absolutely true. But I do want to note, also, where these cities are - I mean, when you think about San Francisco - Nancy Pelosi's city, for example. But when I look at this map that we were referring to yesterday from the Center for Immigration Studies, which is a conservative think tank, there are sanctuary jurisdictions all across the country, including swing states that President Trump must win in 2020, like Ohio. Franklin County, Ohio, where Columbus is, is described as a sanctuary jurisdiction. Are you willing to say for sure right now the president wants to send asylum-seekers to Ohio?

KENNEDY: I think the president is looking at all options for how to relieve the pressure on the four primary border cities. But...

INSKEEP: Including asylum-seekers to swing states?

KENNEDY: I think your point is actually very good because I think there's been a lot of false claims that the president is trying to pick and choose political opponents to punish. This isn't about punishing anyone. This is the fact that we're seeing a crisis where four cities face thousands of people a day coming to their communities. They're overwhelmed. And you have other cities that aren't facing this crisis, yet at the same time, say they want more illegal immigrants.

INSKEEP: Wouldn't you actually - but if...

KENNEDY: So there shouldn't be any problem in correcting that disparity.

INSKEEP: But if that is the problem, wouldn't you actually address that problem by sending more federal resources to the border to deal with people, to process their claims, to adjudicate their claims, rather than what the president is now playing up - the idea of using federal resources, taking people away from the border to bus and transport them somewhere else in the country, even though they're just going to leave that place?

KENNEDY: Well, actually, the president's been advocating for more resources on the border for over two years. So absolutely, the president wants more resources on the border.

INSKEEP: But now he's advocating to take them away for this transportation project.

KENNEDY: There's plenty of ways to transport people. We're looking at all the ways. It may not require moving personnel. But the fact is that in terms of wanting more resources at the border, that's what President Trump has been advocating for since before he got into office. It's the Democrats who, time and time again, have stopped him and said, no more resources at the border, who have curtailed DHS requests for what they want. DHS right now is having to do emergency deployments of personnel on the border with the support of President Trump.

INSKEEP: You know, I don't want to get into all the details of legislative arguments. I'm sure there are instances in which Democrats have resisted more resources at the border. There's an abolish ICE movement and so forth. But there are also Democrats in Congress who have voted to double the size of the Border Patrol as part of broader immigration reform. They're - they seem to be having trouble getting cooperation from Republicans - don't they? - in broader immigration reform...

KENNEDY: No, no.

INSKEEP: ...To do some of the things the president says he wants.

KENNEDY: They should be convincing Nancy Pelosi and the leadership of the Democratic Party that we need more resources on the border, including a barrier, including more judges, including more detention beds and more personnel.

INSKEEP: And different and better visa rules? I mean, why wouldn't the president be putting his effort into actually changing some of the laws that he complains about?

KENNEDY: Steve, the president's been advocating this for two years. He's advocating for closing different loopholes that force catch and release to be the policy of this country, which he doesn't like, which he opposes; for changing credible fear standards so that we're not, over and over again, seeing 90 percent of the people rejected by asylum courts. The president's been advocating for changes to stop this catch-and-release policy, really, since the beginning. So the two things you've said - more resources and changes to our laws - are exactly what the president wants.

INSKEEP: Adam Kennedy, thanks for your time. Really appreciate it.

KENNEDY: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: He is the White House deputy director of communications. And NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro has been listening along with us. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Steve. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What do you hear there?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, there was an old sports broadcaster named Warner Wolf who used to say, let's go to the videotape. And maybe now we should say, let's go to the tweets (laughter) because when it comes to President Trump, he said on Friday - due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities. The radical left, he said, always seems happy to have open borders, so this should make them very happy.

That sure sounds a whole lot like political retribution and not a good faith effort to try to get something done on this issue. As you noted, there have been - there were 68 senators who voted for comprehensive immigration reform. And a lot of these measures that we're talking about - in particular, cities trying to take a more active role - is something that you probably would find willing partners for, if this was something that was a real good faith negotiation that was going on behind the scenes. But before this was reported, you didn't hear about any effort from the White House to talk to Democratic leaders to try to get something like this done.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should note the president uses his bully pulpit to talk about immigration a lot, but they're not necessarily detailed policy proposals. They're attention-grabbing things like this proposal about sanctuary cities.

MONTANARO: And there's no comprehensive immigration reform effort underway, either being pushed by the White House or Republicans in Congress.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's lead political editor, Domenico Montanaro.