President Trump voiced frustration Thursday with California’s status as a statewide sanctuary for illegal immigrants, including gang members, and said he’s considering pulling federal immigration enforcement agents out of the state as a response.
“If we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back,” the president said during a White House meeting on law enforcement issues. “They would be begging. And you know what? I’m thinking about doing it.”
California last month became a “sanctuary state” where police are barred from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration enforcement actions in most cases.
During a discussion of school safety, Mr. Trump said MS-13 gang members who are deported from the U.S. are coming back to California.
“They’re smart — they actually have franchises going to Los Angeles,” the president said. “We’re getting no help from the state of California. Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime mess like you’ve never seen. All I’d have to do is say, ‘ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and Border Patrol, let California alone,’ You’d be inundated, you would see crime like nobody’s ever seen crime in this country.”
In a swipe at Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the law, Mr. Trump said, “They are doing a lousy management job there. They have the highest taxes in the nation. And they don’t know what’s happening out there. Frankly, it’s a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation.”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Rah Shah refused to rule out the dramatic move.
“I wouldn’t get ahead of anything the president might do,” he said, adding that law enforcement decisions by the California governor and other officials were “very troubling.”
“We think that the sanctuary cities are a threat to the public safety and encourage more illegal immigration,” he said. “So I think the president was raising that concern and making a very valid point.”
California’s senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, blasted the president’s comments as “outrageous.”
“California is the 6th largest economy in the world,” she said. “We’re the global hub of innovation and the largest farm state in the country. We’re creating jobs and driving the nation’s economy. At the same time, the state’s murder rate keeps falling and crime is at a historic low.”
She said the president’s “attacks are not only mean-spirited, they’re patently false.”
• S.A. Miller contributed to this report.
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