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WASHINGTON —The White House on Sunday, echoing President Donald Trump, said sending undocumented migrants to sanctuary U.S. cities that have protected them from deportation remains a possibility even though government agencies have said it would be impractical and there is no money allocated to do it.
"We certainly are looking at all options as long as [opposition] Democrats refuse to acknowledge the crisis at the border," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the "Fox News Sunday" show.
Trump said late Saturday on Twitter, "Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants - and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW!"
Hundreds of U.S. cities, along with California, the country's most populous state, have declared themselves as havens for migrants who have illegally crossed the southern U.S. border with Mexico, refusing the help U.S. immigration officials to track down the immigrants so they can be deported.
U.S. border authorities apprehended more than 100,000 undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, at the border in March, nearly twice that in the same month in 2018.
"The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities," Trump said. "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!"
The U.S. now houses thousands of migrants at the border, but is running out of beds and instead is releasing new arrivals into the U.S. on their promise to appear at asylum hearings that might not occur for two years.
The Department of Homeland Security has said that Congress has not appropriated any money to transport the migrants from the border to far-flung sanctuary cities across the U.S., while the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has called it an "unnecessary operational burden."
Sanders said, "Nobody thinks this is the ideal solution," sending migrants to sanctuary cities. But she said mayors of cities "who want this... should be looking to help" Trump resolve the crisis at the border. She accused Congress of wanting to spend "all of its time investigating the president" rather than dealing with the immigration turmoil at the border.
Trump tweeted, "So interesting to see the Mayor of Oakland and other Sanctuary Cities NOT WANT our currently 'detained immigrants' after release due to the ridiculous court ordered 20 day rule. If they don’t want to serve our Nation by taking care of them, why should other cities & towns?"
Trump was referring to a court ruling prohibiting the U.S. from detaining migrant minors, those under 18 years old, for more than 20 days, before being required to release them to relatives in the U.S. or other care givers.
A key Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, told another Fox News show, "Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo," that after the current two-week congressional recess ends, he would introduce legislation that would authorize the detention of children beyond 20 days, "toughen up our asylum standards," and allow migrant children to be returned to Central American countries, which is not now allowed once they have entered the United States.
"We're never going to change this with troops and walls at the border," Graham said of the U.S. immigration crisis. "Doing what we're doing is not working."
He added, "If you get one foot into the United States," migrants can seek asylum. "The word is out that if you come with a minor, you're never going to get deported. We need to change that narrative. We need troops at the border. We need a law. But these [U.S.] laws are insane."