Like so many things he says, President Trump’s threat to send migrants and asylum seekers to "sanctuary cities" in the United States seems more like a bluff than a real proposal.
The president has a habit of entering a negotiation threatening the worst, only to back down when things don’t go his way. Just recently, he backed off a threat to close the border.
Yet, the White House has said this relocation plan is a real option under consideration. Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said over the weekend if Democrats don’t negotiate with the White House on the border issue it is prepared to "put some of those people into their communities.”
It’s offensive that the president sees people as weapons to be deployed against his political enemies. And no less offensive is the idea that they would be used to "punish" Americans who just happen to be represented by Democrats in Congress.
To be clear, we don't worry about these families being sent here. First, Trump would not alienate a state like Iowa, which he would depend upon. Instead, his threat is against larger cities. But more importantly, like the mayors of Chicago and Seattle, we see the people Trump is using as political pawns as people – men, women and children fleeing violence, drug wars, gangs and poverty.
They are the inevitable consequence of fear in central America. It's unfortunate the president sees them as a tool to somehow spread fear in the U.S.
There once was a time when Iowa’s leaders responded to the kind of hardship facing central Americans in a way for which they are now fondly remembered. We think of the late Iowa governor, Robert Ray, a Republican, who offered the state as a place for refugee families following the Vietnam War.
For some of us growing up in Iowa, what Ray did came to represent the best of our state. And it wasn’t because all Iowans welcomed these refugees with open arms. As the historian Matthew Walsh has pointed out, there was substantial opposition in Iowa to their resettlement here.
Yet, Ray was moved by a Christian spirit, and he persisted.
These are different days. Today, Trump tries to leverage that opposition.
The president’s threats to bus people to "sanctuary cities," which he has amplified on Twitter in recent days, are perplexing in at least one other sense. The Department of Homeland Security has determined there is no legal basis for releasing migrants into the districts of political opponents, according to the Washington Post.
Yet, Trump insists that it is legal.
To add to the absurdity, the president took to Twitter on Monday to boast that the singer Cher was on his side for a tweet she issued over the weekend about the threat. Which, of course, gave us great comfort.
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have launched an inquiry into the matter.
We know the thousands of people from central America who are traveling to our southern border represent a significant issue in our country. We don't have a system that can deal with all of their asylum requests in a speedy manner. We also don’t have the facilities to safely accommodate them while they wait, and so we see images where children are detained under bridge overpasses, like we saw recently in Texas.
This can’t go on.
Our hope is that there are professionals in the government who can fashion common sense solutions to alleviate this crisis – and that lawmakers can put aside political differences to fix our immigration policy.
We realize these are no easy tasks. We also know this work is not made easier by Trump’s bombastic threats.
Unfortunately, that is what the president offers in the mistaken belief that it will somehow help. It doesn’t. Unless all he’s worried about are his own re-election prospects.
The bottom line for us: Families, whether they are in the country legally or not, should not be treated as weapons. We believe in border integrity, but we also believe in humanity. And Americans, no matter who represents them in Congress, should not be targeted in an attempt to pressure political opponents.
We think the country would be better served if Trump would do as he’s done so many other times: Back off this threat.