Key Democratic lawmakers on Monday accused the Trump administration of 'a bizarre and unlawful attempt to score political points' with a possible plan to send undocumented immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexican border to congressional districts represented by Democrats.
Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Elijah Cummings and Bennie Thompson, all chairmen of House of Representatives committees investigating President Donald Trump's administration, demanded documents and communications about the plan to move migrants from the border to hundreds of communities throughout the U.S.
In opposition to Trump, local officials far from the border across the U.S. have declared their jurisdictions as sanctuary cities for migrants and refused to help federal officials track down the immigrants so they can be deported.
Trump suggested again Monday he wants to move the immigrants detained at the border to the sanctuary cities and states after saying over the weekend he wants them 'to take care of the Illegal Immigrants -- and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds.'
The lawmakers said, 'It is shocking that the president and senior administration officials are even considering manipulating release decisions for purely political reasons.'
The government's Department of Homeland Security has said that Congress has not appropriated any money to transport the migrants from the border to far-flung sanctuary cities, while the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has called the idea an 'unnecessary operational burden.'
But Trump, who is often at odds with Democratic lawmakers over funding to control the 100,000-a-month surge of migrants at the border, revived the idea in recent days, claiming that opposition Democrats who favor open borders ought to approve of accepting the migrants into their communities. Some local Democratic officials have said the migrants, mostly from Central America, are welcome in their cities, while other party officials have claimed that Trump has no legal right to single out specific communities for an influx of migrants.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the 'Fox News Sunday' show, 'We certainly are looking at all options as long as Democrats refuse to acknowledge the crisis at the border.'
Trump, in one of several Twitter comments on border security in recent days, said, 'The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known (for) its poor management & high taxes!'
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee told NBC's 'Meet The Press' that his state welcomes people who are awaiting their asylum hearings.
'You can't threaten somebody with something they're not afraid of. And we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington,' Inslee said.
He criticized what he called immigration solutions based on 'trolling on the internet' and instead promoted a system to process more asylum claims, a path to citizenship for those already living in the United States who came to the country illegally, and having an overall 'acceptance of refugees because we're a humane nation.'
The U.S. now houses thousands of migrants at the border but is running out of beds and instead is releasing new arrivals into the U.S. on their promise to appear at asylum hearings that might not occur for two years.
Press secretary Sanders said, 'Nobody thinks this is the ideal solution,' sending migrants to sanctuary cities. But she said mayors of cities 'who want this ... should be looking to help' Trump resolve the crisis at the border. She accused Congress of wanting to spend 'all of its time investigating the president' rather than dealing with the immigration turmoil.
Trump tweeted, 'So interesting to see the Mayor of Oakland and other Sanctuary Cities NOT WANT our currently 'detained immigrants' after release due to the ridiculous court ordered 20 day rule. If they dont want to serve our Nation by taking care of them, why should other cities & towns?'
Trump was referring to a court ruling prohibiting the U.S. from detaining migrant minors, those under 18 years old, for more than 20 days, before being required to release them to relatives in the U.S. or other caregivers.
Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf responded to Trump with a tweet saying, 'It's time to stop fanning hate and division.'
'I've been consistent and clear: Oakland welcomes all, no matter where you came from or how you got here,' she said.
A key Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, told another Fox News show, 'Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,' that after the current two-week congressional recess ends, he would introduce legislation that would authorize the detention of children beyond 20 days, 'toughen up our asylum standards,' and allow migrant children to be returned to Central American countries, which is not now allowed once they have entered the United States.
'We're never going to change this with troops and walls at the border,' Graham said of the U.S. immigration crisis. 'Doing what we're doing is not working.'
He added, 'If you get one foot into the United States,' migrants can seek asylum. 'The word is out that if you come with a minor, you're never going to get deported. We need to change that narrative. We need troops at the border. We need a law. But these (U.S.) laws are insane.'