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Officials In Sanctuary Cities Condemn Trump's Proposal To Move Immigrant Detainees


Officials in sanctuary cities are largely condemning President Trump's proposal to move immigrant detainees from the border to those cities. There are almost 200 sanctuary municipalities, states and counties across the U.S. San Francisco is one of them. City leaders there say that although they would welcome migrants, they don't think transporting them to the city is the best option. Sonja Hutson from member station KQED reports.

SONJA HUTSON, BYLINE: San Francisco's had a sanctuary policy since 1989. It limits the ability of law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer says it's an ordinance the city is proud of.

SANDRA LEE FEWER: In San Francisco, we don't know who's documented and who isn't. Actually, we just live amongst each other, and we live peacefully.

HUTSON: While Fewer and other officials are denouncing the proposal, they're also saying they would welcome the migrants if it goes through.

FEWER: We will treat them as human beings. We respect them as people. And we want their families to have a livelihood here, too.

HUTSON: Critics of sanctuary policies say they endanger residents. They point to the fatal 2015 shooting of a woman in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant. That instance garnered national attention as an example of violence enabled by sanctuary policies. The immigrant, however, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter.

But supporters of the policy, like San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, say they keep the city safe and help improve the well-being of immigrants.

RAFAEL MANDELMAN: It's about immigrant communities being able to go to the police, be able to go to our public health resources. Our city will not be stronger if our immigrant communities feel that they can't go to the police or can't go see a doctor.

HUTSON: In addition to several major cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, the entire state of California has a sanctuary policy. Kevin de Leon authored the sanctuary state law when he represented parts of Los Angeles in the state Senate. He says another concern is the cost of transporting these migrants.

KEVIN DE LEON: Wasting taxpayer dollars to put folks on a plane specifically to sanctuary cities is a non-starter.

HUTSON: San Francisco is more than 500 miles from the California-Mexico border. De Leon says the proposal has little to do with what's best for immigration and more to do with agitating President Trump's base in the run-up to the 2020 election.

DE LEON: It's clearly not done to benefit the immigrants themselves, but rather to do everything within his power to embarrass elected official leaders throughout the state who have defended immigrants.

HUTSON: This isn't the first time the Trump administration has singled out sanctuary cities. In 2017, it threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from nearly 30 jurisdictions. In the end, many courts determined the federal government could not withhold those grants.

But not everyone in California or San Francisco agrees with the elected leaders who put forth these policies. Harmeet Dhillon is the Republican National Committeewoman for California and a lawyer in San Francisco. She supports President Trump's proposal to move immigrants to sanctuary cities. And she says the Democratic response to that suggestion has been hypocritical.

HARMEET DHILLON: Talk about political ploys and political pawns. Democrats have been using illegal aliens as political pawns and selling points and talking points for their pandering to the Hispanic vote for decades.

HUTSON: And Dhillon says city officials shouldn't be welcoming large amounts of undocumented immigrants into places like San Francisco.

DHILLON: Actually, when you can't take care of the health and welfare needs and educational needs of your own citizens, then you are a bad leader trying to dilute those resources amongst people who have not necessarily paid their dues to be here in this country.

HUTSON: Dhillon says sanctuary cities should focus on helping current residents, including large homeless populations in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. For NPR News, I'm Sonja Hutson in San Francisco.


Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER. She’s been reporting on politics ever since the 10th grade, when she went to so many school board meetings the district set up a press table for her. Before coming to Utah, Sonja spent four years at KQED in San Francisco where she covered everything from wildfires to the tech industry. When she’s not working, you can find her skiing, camping, or deeply invested in a 1000 piece puzzle.