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White House: Migrants to sanctuary cities not a top choice

President Trump toured the border between the United States and Mexico in Calexico, Calif., earlier this month.
President Trump toured the border between the United States and Mexico in Calexico, Calif., earlier this month.(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — An idea floated by President Trump to send immigrants from the border to ‘‘sanctuary cities’’ to exact revenge on Democratic foes could end up doing the migrants a favor by placing them in locations that make it easier to put down roots and stay in the country.

The plan, which some analysts had labeled problematic and unrealistic, would put thousands of immigrants in cities that are not only welcoming to them, but also more likely to rebuff federal officials carrying out deportation orders. Many of these locations have more resources to help immigrants make their legal cases to stay in the United States than smaller cities, with some of the nation’s biggest immigration advocacy groups based in places like San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago. The downside for the immigrants would be a high cost of living in the cities.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University recently announced that an analysis found that immigrants in sanctuary cities such as New York and Los Angeles are 20 percent less likely to be arrested out in the community than in cities without such policies.

‘‘With immigrants being less likely to commit crimes than the US-born population, and with sanctuary jurisdictions being safer and more productive than non-sanctuary jurisdictions, the data damns this proposal as a politically motivated stunt that seeks to play politics with peoples’ lives,’’ said George Gascon, district attorney for San Francisco.

Trump has grown increasingly frustrated over the situation at the border, where tens of thousands of immigrant families are crossing each month, many to claim asylum. His administration has attempted several efforts to stop the flow, and he recently shook up the top ranks of the Department of Homeland Security.

The idea to ship immigrants to Democratic strongholds was considered twice in recent months, but the White House and Department of Homeland Security said the plan had been rejected. But Trump said Friday he was still considering it.

‘‘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 only,’’ Trump tweeted. He added that, ‘‘The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!’’

Asked about the proposal Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said it was ‘‘not the ideal solution.’’

‘‘The president heard the idea, he likes it,’’ she told ABC’s ‘‘This Week,’’ adding that it is among several options being reviewed by the White House. ‘‘The president likes the idea and Democrats have said they want these individuals into their communities so let’s see if it works and everybody gets a win out of it.’’ She said she hopes Democrats will work with the president on a comprehensive immigration bill.

Democrats blasted the White House proposal as a political stunt that used human beings as pawns. House Homeland Security chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, questioned the legality of the proposal.

‘‘This is again his manufactured chaos that he’s created over the last two years on the border,’’ Thompson said of Trump, adding Democrats were more than willing to sit down and talk about immigration legislation.

Thompson made the comments on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’ Sanders also spoke on ABC and ‘‘Fox News Sunday.’’

The Trump administration has long pushed back against cities with sanctuary policies, which generally prohibit local authorities from cooperating with federal immigration police, often by refusing to hold people arrested on local charges past their release date at the request of immigration officers. Over 100 local governments around the country have adopted a variety of these polices

The plan discussed by Trump would have financial, logistical, and legal issues.

The transportation of immigrants who are arrested at the border to large and faraway cities would be burdensome and costly at a time when Immigration and Customs Enforcement is already stretched thin, having released over 125,000 immigrants into the country pending their immigration court since Dec. 21. They are currently being released mainly in border states.

Flights chartered by ICE cost about $7,785 per flight hour, according to the agency, and require multiple staffers, including an in-flight medical professional. The agency also uses commercial flights. Doing longer transports would increase liability for the agency, especially considering that many of the immigrants in its care are families with young children.

And despite the consideration given to releasing the immigrants on the streets to sanctuary cities, the Trump administration has plenty of jail space to detain families. As of April 11, the nation’s three facilities to detain immigrant families were nowhere near capacity, including a Pennsylvania facility housing only nine immigrants.

It’s also unclear how long the immigrants would stay in these cities because they are required to provide an address to federal authorities — typically of a family member — as a condition of their release.

‘‘It’s illogical,’’ said Angela Chan, policy director with the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus. ‘‘It’s just alarming that they are spending so much effort and so much time to engage in political theater.’’