President Trump confirmed Friday that he is considering a new policy of “placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” as he wrote in a tweet. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!”
There are three main responses to that. The first is that the president is likely trolling to get a rise out of liberals and to elicit some fist pumps from his base, but it’s fundamentally impractical. How would the president move thousands of migrants from, say, El Paso, to San Francisco? And conservatives would be OK with that kind of spending? Plus, migrants don’t have to remain in the jurisdiction into which the government releases them.
The second is that if Trump truly believes the people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum are dangerous threats to American neighborhoods, to concentrate them in areas where his political opponents hold sway is an egregious abuse of power. No president should intentionally undermine the public safety of communities, especially for political reasons.
The third is: Bring ’em on.
Numerous studies have found that immigrants — both those here legally and those without permission — commit crimes at lower levels than native-born Americans. So flooding sanctuary cities temporarily with asylum seekers would probably drive down local crime rates. The so-called sanctuary cities and states have staked out that position for a purpose — they welcome migrants as friends, neighbors and colleagues.
Dropping 10,000 asylum seekers on Los Angeles in one fell swoop could create a logistical problem, much as it has in El Paso, where the local capacity for resettling migrants awaiting deportation hearings has been overwhelmed. Yet if it happened, it probably wouldn’t play out that way. Trump, who never misses a chance to malign migrants and stoke fear among the irrational, doesn’t understand that just because he releases migrants into specific cities that they will stay there.
Migrants — look the term up, Mr. President — move around and historically have wound up dispersed around the country where local support networks of friends, families and nonprofit groups are willing and able to help them. The government’s requirement is that they stay in touch with the Immigration Court system, which, because successive administrations and Congresses have utterly failed to expand it to handle the work, can take years to resolve their cases.
At its heart, the administration’s contemplation of this plan, and Trump’s belligerent boasting of it, reveals its inability to craft policies to achieve its stated goal of a more secure border.
Trump blames Congress for the outdated immigration and asylum system, which is true as far as it goes. But Trump’s ramped-up arrests have overstuffed detention centers. His government shutdown contributed to the immigration court backlog, with hearings that had been scheduled before the shutdown getting postponed, in some cases, for years.
Trump has made immigration the centerpiece of his presidency, yet he has botched it at just about every turn. He fundamentally doesn’t understand that tens of thousands of people are arriving at the border because, in most cases, they fear for their lives if they remain in their homes. Or they are fleeing deadening poverty. Pounding his chest and bellowing about a wall addresses none of that.