White House officials reportedly suggested releasing migrant detainees in “sanctuary cities” as a means of mitigating the shortage of jail space and retaliating against political foes including Nancy Pelosi, The Washington Post reports. The plan was reportedly first brought up in a Nov. 16 email to immigration officials, in which the White House asked if it was possible to arrest members of the incoming migrant caravan and bus them “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities.” The request prompted concern, with Matthew Albence—reportedly slated to lead Immigrations and Customs Enforcement—writing that the plan could result in liability and “PR risks as well.” The White House reportedly asked again about the plan in February, as a way to “punish Democrats standing in the way of funding additional detention beds.” Albence reportedly circulated the plan seeking a “legal review,” which ultimately deemed the idea “inappropriate” and lacking a legal basis.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security told the Post that senior adviser Stephen Miller was the official who discussed the plan with ICE, and then-acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello was not informed. President Trump recently rescinded Vitiello’s nomination to lead the agency, and Vitiello resigned earlier this week. CNN also reported Trump “personally” pushed then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through with the plan, but she “resisted.” Miller and Albence reportedly declined to comment to the Post. In a statement, the White House said the plan was “just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”