Key Democratic lawmakers on Monday accused the Trump administration of "a bizarre and unlawful attempt to score political points" with a possible plan to send undocumented immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexican border to congressional districts represented by Democrats.
Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Elijah Cummings and Bennie Thompson, all chairmen of House of Representatives committees investigating President Donald Trump's administration, demanded documents and communications about the plan to move migrants from the border to hundreds of communities throughout the United States.
Local officials in areas across the country have declared their jurisdictions are sanctuary cities for migrants, with policies limiting how much they cooperate with federal immigration enforcement and in some cases allowing undocumented immigrants to access city services and obtain identification cards.
Federal law does not require local police to detain people based on their immigration status, and local law enforcement officials in sanctuary areas have said they would rather immigrant communities not fear interacting with police.
Some states have gone the other direction, passing anti-sanctuary laws requiring cities to work with federal immigration authorities.
Trump suggested again Monday he wants to move the immigrants detained at the border to the sanctuary cities and states after saying over the weekend he wants them "to take care of the Illegal Immigrants -- and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds."
The Democratic lawmakers said, "It is shocking that the president and senior administration officials are even considering manipulating release decisions for purely political reasons."
The government's 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, while the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has called the idea an "unnecessary operational burden."
But Trump, who is often at odds with Democratic lawmakers over border security funding, revived the idea in recent days, claiming that opposition Democrats who favor what he calls "open borders" ought to approve of accepting the migrants into their communities. Some local Democratic officials have said the migrants, mostly from Central America, are welcome in their cities, while other party officials have claimed that Trump has no legal right to single out specific communities for an influx of migrants.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the U.S. cable news program Fox News Sunday, "We certainly are looking at all options as long as Democrats refuse to acknowledge the crisis at the border."
Trump, in one of several Twitter comments on border security in recent days, said, "The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. 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!"
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee told NBC's Meet The Press that his state welcomes people who are awaiting their asylum hearings.
"You can't threaten somebody with something they're not afraid of. And we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington," Inslee said.
He criticized what he called immigration solutions based on "trolling on the internet" and instead promoted a system to process more asylum claims, a path to citizenship for those already living in the United States who came to the country illegally, and having an overall "acceptance of refugees because we're a humane nation."
The United States now houses thousands of migrants at the border but is running out of beds and instead is releasing new arrivals into the country on their promise to appear at asylum hearings that might not occur for two years.