Washington: US President Donald Trumps top aides considered an idea to pressure immigration agencies to release apprehended migrants into so-called sanctuary cities represented by Democratic lawmakers, a media report said.
The idea was floated in an email by a top White House policy adviser in November, when Trump was furiously condemning migrant caravans from Central America headed toward the south-western border, The New York Times quoted informed sources as saying on Thursday.
Sanctuary cities refer to municipal jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with the government's effort to enforce immigration law.
In the email dated November 16, with the subject line "Sanctuary City Proposal", May Davis, the deputy White House policy coordinator, raised the idea with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection.
Davis suggested that migrants who had been apprehended and were slated to be released into border towns could instead be taken to one of several sanctuary cities, which limit how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration officers.
Once there, the migrants would be released onto the streets, potentially sending a message to the Democratic politicians who oppose Trump's immigration agenda and his demands for a wall along the border with Mexico.
Matthew Albence, the acting deputy director of ICE, objected to the idea, telling the White House that there would be liability issues if a migrant was injured during transport. He also raised concerns that the agency's budget had not been appropriated for that purpose, calling it an additional burden on the department.
In response to the development, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday evening: "This was a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion."
But in a statement from the White House, an official called the proposal a "nonstory" and said that "these are illegal aliens already being released and sent to US communities every day".
"The administration's position is that we want to deport - not release - illegal aliens," the official said.