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Trump Administration Considers Transferring Immigrants to 'Sanctuary Cities'


We're going to start the program with the latest on an idea apparently being considered by the White House - to transfer detained asylum seekers and other would-be immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities. Several news organizations had reported last week that the idea had been floated within the Trump administration and then rejected. But on Friday, the president told reporters he is actually considering this.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We might as well do what they always say they want. We'll bring the illegal - really, you call them the illegals. I call them the illegals. They came across the border illegally. We'll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it.

MARTIN: White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley is here with us now to tell us more.

Mr. Gidley, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

HOGAN GIDLEY: Thank you so much. It's great to be with you.

MARTIN: As I indicated, the White House has had several conflicting statements about this when it was first reported. The White House in a statement knocked it down. Then the president on Friday said what we just heard him say. And then Sarah Sanders this morning said that this is a real proposal. What changed from Thursday night, when the White House said that this proposal was dead, to Friday, when the president said that it isn't? What happened?

GIDLEY: Well, we had looked at it before, and obviously, there were some challenges we faced that prevented us from moving forward on any real steps to make this happen. And then the president actually came to us and said, listen - I think this is a really good idea. We already have so many people pouring into this country in record-setting numbers - 100,000-plus just last month alone. And the problem is Democrats won't work with us to fix the current laws. And so they tell us, you cannot keep family units detained. You cannot keep family units - or they don't want us to keep family units on the Mexico side of the border while they await their day in court.

And you can't detain them here. So if you can't deport them, and you can't detain them, the only option is to release them. The problem is we consistently release these family units in the same communities - into San Diego, San Antonio, Yuma, Phoenix, El Paso, all along the southern border. And they should not be forced to bear the brunt of policies that they have no control over.


GIDLEY: So we looked at it and said, where are the logical places to spread the wealth, if you will? And places like San Francisco, for example, or a sanctuary city - they are designed and set up specifically to have people there who aren't here legally. That's what their stated goal is. So there's no reason we shouldn't be looking at a...


GIDLEY: ...Way to give them exactly what they want.

MARTIN: You mentioned impediments or obstacles. I'm not quite sure what the word you just used was. But it's been reported that the Cabinet-level agency which would be responsible for implementing this has had its own legal counsel reject this for legal reasons. He said it's illegal specifically to transfer people into specific areas for political retribution. On what legal grounds does the White House believe you can transfer people to specific areas of the country in order to retaliate against their political leadership?

GIDLEY: Well, wait a second. (Laughter) I just got through telling you that's completely a false premise. First of all, we already send them to specific places. The problem is we send them to the same specific places repeatedly. So you've got to spread it out a little bit. It's not political retribution. If anything, you should consider it on the Democrat side to be an olive branch. You've asked us to work with you on some things we've put forth, time after time, solution after solution. They will not come to the table.

So the logical answer is to give them something they want. Democrats say that if you even think about rejecting people into this country illegally that you are somehow racist. So the question then becomes, do Democrats want to allow these people to be shipped into their communities? That's what they said they wanted. It's not political retribution. It's a solution to a problem we face along the southern border.

MARTIN: Who are these entities who are specifically saying that we would like you to move these immigrant families or would-be immigrant families or would-be asylum seekers elsewhere? Who are these entities who are saying that to you?

GIDLEY: Sure...

MARTIN: Because we are getting different information from different political leaders. So who exactly is telling you that this is what they think the administration should do?

GIDLEY: Our contention is the conversations we have on the same towns along the southern border, as I just mentioned. NGOs, non-government organizations, are telling us they don't have enough resources to actually address the people that are being influxed (ph) into these communities. Democrats won't give us enough money to keep them along the border in detention facilities, won't give us enough ICE beds, won't give the resources we need to house them down along the southern border.

So the only thing remains is to send them into other locations across the country who are, again, specifically designed to handle it. It shouldn't be political retribution or considered such. What it should be is the Democrats beating down the gates at the White House trying to get in here to say, thank you, Mr. President. We have long said these people deserve the right to be here even though they're here illegally.


GIDLEY: And anybody who disagrees is a racist. We want them in our communities. We've said so.


GIDLEY: How do we work with the administration...


GIDLEY: ...To make sure they are transported safely into these sanctuary cities?

MARTIN: Two more questions for you. There is a bipartisan proposal, which was proposed by Xochitl Small Torres (ph), who represents New Mexico, and Dan Crenshaw, who's a freshman from Texas, and Will Hurd, who is a veteran from Texas. He's also the only Republican currently representing a border district. They have a bipartisan proposal which would offer a different option - which would offer additional support to border agents at the border, additional judges, additional immigration judges to process these asylum seekers and so forth. Is the White House considering this proposal - which is bipartisan, as we said?

GIDLEY: We are considering all proposals that would work to alleviate this problem, especially ones that are bipartisan, as you mentioned. I can't speak directly to that particular piece of legislation as I've not seen it, and I don't know exactly if we've taken a stand one way or the other. But until they pass something like that, these are all hypotheticals. Anybody who's willing to come forth and present a solution to the problem, we're happy to sit down and listen.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, I think many people might wonder why, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House for the first two years of this administration, if this is as significant a crisis as the White House says it is, why the issue wasn't addressed then legislatively.

GIDLEY: Yeah, that's a great question you'd have to ask Republicans. Don't think they're unscathed here for what they didn't accomplish. There's no doubt. Now, part of that is, as you know, the political realities exist that we didn't have a filibuster-proof Senate. So we could have gotten some of these things through had they gone nuclear. Obviously, that's something that Leader McConnell didn't want to do. But the fact is, they should have done a lot more.

But that's in the past. What we have now is a Democrat-controlled House, and they've got to work with us if they say they want to protect the American people. They voted for border walls and barriers in the past. They voted for measures along the southern border to give them resources...


GIDLEY: ...In the past. Even Barack Obama in 2014 called this a crisis from the Rose Garden. It's only gotten...


GIDLEY: ...Worse. So it's time to get some solutions out there so we can protect the American people.

MARTIN: That was Hogan Gidley, deputy White House press secretary.

Mr. Gidley, thank you so much for speaking to us.

GIDLEY: Thank you so much for the time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.