Washington (AFP) - The White House said Sunday it is looking at ways to transfer undocumented migrants to US sanctuary cities as Democrats accused President Donald Trump of creating "manufactured chaos" at the US-Mexico border.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced an "extensive review" of the potential plan on ABC's "This Week" after Trump confirmed press reports that his administration had proposed the controversial move.
So-called sanctuary cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York are among hundreds of mainly Democrat-run jurisdictions across the US that limit cooperation in complying with requests from immigration officials.
"This is an option on the table," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said of the proposal in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
Trump "heard the idea, he likes it, so –- well, we're looking to see if there are options that make it possible and doing a full and thorough and extensive review," she said.
The president revived the idea on Twitter and in comments to reporters on Friday, after the White House had said earlier in the week it was off the table.
Department of Homeland Security officials were reported to have pushed back against the transfers of detained migrants as illegal, impractical and counter-productive.
But in a tweet late Saturday, Trump insisted the US has "the absolute 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!" he posted.
Trump has staked his presidency on his insistence that the United States is being overrun by migrants and asylum seekers.
- Political 'pawns' -
But opponents, mostly in the Democratic Party, say his push for building more walls on the Mexican border and his almost daily denunciations of migrants as dangerous criminals incites racial hatred.
"This is again his manufactured chaos that he's created over the last two years on the border," Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC.
Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called Trump's push for transfers of migrants to sanctuary cities "another misuse of presidential power."
He said the president had no right to use funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes "to ship immigrants all over the country."
"Nor is it right for the president to use immigrants or people claiming political asylum as pawns in a fight against political opponents," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Critics warn migrant transfers would further burden already stretched immigration authorities, while making it more difficult to track those that have been unloaded in sympathetic jurisdictions.
Sanders acknowledged that it was not "ideal" solution but argued that Democrats had "stated time and time again they support open borders, they support sanctuary cities."
"So, let's spread out some of that burden and let's put it in some of those other locations if that's what they want to see happen and are refusing to actually help fix the problem."