Sanctuary City Mayors Respond to Trump's Threat 'With Open Arms'

The president wants to release detained immigrants in cities where local leaders oppose his immigration policies.
by | April 15, 2019 AT 5:10 PM
Children line up to enter a tent at an immigrant detention center in Fla. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)

President Donald Trump is threatening to send detained immigrants to “sanctuary cities” across America, and many mayors have the same response: We’ll take 'em.

“What President Trump fails to understand is that America is a sanctuary country,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Small, medium and large cities across the nation are suddenly and rapidly identifying as sanctuary cities because of the abandonment of Americans' values, ideals and cultural destiny under President Trump’s watch.”

Emanuel added that Chicago “would welcome these migrants with open arms, just as we welcomed Syrian refugees, just as we welcomed Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria and just as we welcome Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide in Myanmar.”

At least a dozen other mayors offered similar public reactions after Trump tweeted on Friday: “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are … giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities.”

The tweet followed reports by The Washington Post revealing that Trump officials tried to convince U.S. immigration authorities to release immigrant detainees in cities that oppose the president's immigration policies. The idea was rejected in November and again in February. Homeland Security officials denied late last week that it's up for discussion again. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday that the plan is once again being reviewed.

Amid the communication chaos, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said his city “would be prepared to welcome these immigrants.” Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf echoed that statement and told CNN the president’s plan was “an outrageous abuse of power and public resources.” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote a Washington Post op-ed declaring that “if this president wants to send immigrants and refugees to Seattle and other welcoming cities, let me be clear: We will do what we have always done, and we will be stronger for it.”

Many critics have interpreted Trump’s threat as less of a serious policy pronouncement than a way to cajole Democrats who oppose his hard-line immigration agenda.

“This isn’t governing. It’s trolling,” wrote Post columnist Max Boot.

It remains to be seen whether the president will follow through on his proposal. Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington, Vt. tweeted that Trump “has failed to make good on many of his past threats” but made clear that, “if he follows through, Burlington will come together as a community to welcome these new neighbors.”

Mayors have generally taken a different tack than Trump on immigration, emphasizing diversity and inclusion. In January, at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., a bipartisan group of border-state leaders criticized the president’s signature campaign promise.

"We need to protect our borders,” Republican Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas, said. “But this whole idea of focusing on a wall -- $1.3 billion or $5.7 billion -- is a bunch of malarkey. That's not dealing with the issue.”

Graham Vyse | Staff Writer