President Donald Trump confirmed in tweets Friday reports that White House officials have considered releasing immigrant detainees in sanctuary cities in regions governed by Democrats, giving Democratic officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel another opportunity to decry Trump immigration policies.
Later that day, however, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan fired back in a Washington Post op-ed to tell the President that her city has "always welcomed" immigrants.
He says despite Trump's "disgraceful" use of people as "tools for political retribution", Philadelphia would "welcome these immigrants just as we have embraced our immigrant communities for decades".
"Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very risky immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only", Trump wrote on Twitter, confirming a Washington Post report.
The tweet came hours after the White House said the idea was no longer under consideration.
As the President has made curbing immigration a major focus of his presidency, he has expressed a desire to punish sanctuary cities - jurisdictions which limit the cooperation of local law enforcement with immigration authorities.
And it could actually make it more hard for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to arrest people facing deportation, because sanctuary cities do not work with ICE.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller urged senior DHS officials to make the plan a reality, the source said. "These are human beings, not game pieces", the official said.
Luis Garza, executive director of Comunidades Unidas, said it's "very concerning" to see the White House consider the plan, though not surprising.
Mr Trump has previously ordered federal funding to be withheld from sanctuary cities, but that plan was torpedoed by a federal judge in California in August past year. Sacramento is a sanctuary city. He told Mr McAleenan he would pardon him if he were to find himself in trouble for blocking legal asylum-seekers, according to two people familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private exchange.
She said: "I don't know anything about it, but again it's just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a county, as a people, to address who we are: a nation of immigrants". Numerous administration's plans regarding asylum seekers have quickly been challenged in the courts as not legal or constitutional, including banning those who cross between ports of entry from claiming asylum at all, as well as a plan to have ever-increasing numbers wait in Mexico before their date in immigration court, which can take months or even years.
"Now they are talking about bussing families to particular cities to target political opponents", Castro said.
With immigrant processing and holding centres overwhelmed, the administration has already been busing people hundreds of miles inland and releasing them at Greyhound stations and churches in cities such as Albuquerque, San Antonio and Phoenix.
Former ICE deputy director Matt Albence - who once likened migrant detention centres to "summer camp," and who on Friday was announced as the agency's acting director - denied that the White House pressured immigration officials to implement the idea.
The measure was reportedly proposed in November in response to a migrant caravan that travelled from Central America to the US-Mexico border.