Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported the incredible story last night of the Trump administration’s proposed plan to bus detained immigrants to sanctuary cities, a way, as the Times put it, “of punishing Democrats for resisting budget requests for more money to detain undocumented immigrants.”
This notion—that busing immigrants to sanctuary cities would have the effect of “punishing” the Democrats who represent them—goes largely unexamined in either piece. The closest we come to understanding it is this, from the Post (emphasis added):
“It was retaliation, to show them, ‘Your lack of cooperation has impacts,’ ” said one of the DHS officials, summarizing the rationale. “I think they thought it would put pressure on those communities to understand, I guess, a different perspective on why you need more immigration money for detention beds.”
It would be great if either of the stories had pressed their sources a little more to explain exactly how these officials—led, reportedly, by Stephen Miller—thought that busing migrants to those cities would be a punishment in any way. Did Stephen think that releasing busloads of migrants in San Francisco or New York would instantly cause the city to collapse into a dystopian, crime-ridden hellscape? Did he think that they would eat all the famous New York pizza?
A premise like “busing migrants to San Francisco will punish Nancy Pelosi” is not self-explanatory. I do not immediately understand the mechanism by which releasing a tired, huddled mass of immigrants in cities with massive populations—and cities where asylum approval rates are much higher—would punish their representatives.
The release of these migrants to the streets without any support, of course, is vile in itself. On Christmas Day last year (gotta love this administration’s Christian charity), NPR reported that ICE had released “approximately 400 migrants near the Greyhound bus terminal with no apparent plan in place for the men, women and children” over the past few days. Those migrants were left “completely reliant on generous strangers who have been showing up in droves to distribute food, water and blankets as temperatures drop into the 40s.”
But I would like for the papers and the anonymous officials involved—many of whom are likely to be involved in other vile immigrations decisions—to have to spell this out. It doesn’t serve readers to leave that question unanswered, to leave the prospect open that these officials thought just the presence of immigrants in these cities would harm their residents. Those migrants can’t vote; the vast, vast majority of harm experienced by releasing them on the streets is experienced by the migrants themselves, not the communities around them. I do not understand how this evil act was supposed to translate into political pressure on Pelosi, or representatives in New York or Chicago, unless what they actually thought would happen is that crimey migrants would do a bunch of migranty crimes in those cities, because they are racist.
This is just the kind of thing that I might interrogate a little more. Otherwise, the framing is left as “the presence of migrants in cities will be bad for those cities.” And in the end, that just does Stephen Miller’s work for him.