U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he is strongly considering releasing undocumented migrants in mostly Democratic jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.
“We are giving very strong consideration to having people, after a 20-day period — because legally you’re not allowed to hold them for more than that — we will move them to sanctuary cities,” Trump said at the White House.
He later said on Twitter that the proposal should make Democrats “very happy!” because they consistently “have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy.”
The White House and Department of Homeland Security had earlier denied that Trump was mulling the action in statements to the Washington Post, which reported Thursday the move was under consideration.
But his overt threat of political retaliation come as congressional Democrats continue to oppose Trump’s efforts to legislate tougher immigration laws that would support his efforts to curtail legal and illegal immigration to the United States.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strongly rebutted the president’s threat.
“It’s just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a county, as a people, to address who we are: a nation of immigrants,” Pelosi said, according to the Washington Post.
Last week when Trump told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the U.S., in violation of American law, he also told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan if he were to be jailed for following the president’s directive he would issue a presidential pardon, according to CNN.
Trump named McAleenan acting head of Homeland Security after its former chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, resigned during the weekend because of differences with the president on his efforts to accelerate his immigration crackdown.
CNN said it is unclear if his offer to pardon McAleenan was made in jest, and the department told CNN that Trump did not direct the acting chief to do anything illegal.