Migrants will not be sent to sanctuary cities, DHS official says

WASHINGTON -- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Sunday said that migrants detained along the southern US border will not be sent to sanctuary cities as President Donald Trump and some members of his administration have previously pushed for.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," McAleenan was asked to respond to the President having said on several occasions that he supported the idea, including last month during a rally in Wisconsin in which he claimed the process was already underway.

"As we've already talked about, we are balancing operationally the processing of people at the border. We have sent flights to California -- California is a sanctuary state by law, so that's technically correct," McAleenan told host Margaret Brennan.

In San Diego, the first official flight of migrants from overcrowded Texas border facilities arrived Friday afternoon. Three flights are scheduled to arrive weekly. Each flight will carry between 120-135 people.

Pushed about whether DHS is or will send migrants specifically to sanctuary cities, McAleenan first dodged the question, saying, "Our transportation is based on operational necessity, capacity to process safely -- that's what we're doing."

Asked in a follow-up by Brennan whether the answer to the question was "no," McAleenan answered, "Correct."

Last week, talk of a possible government plan to send migrants who are in federal custody to South Florida sparked concern from Florida officials, including Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen, who said he and other local officials learned this week from US Customs and Border Protection of a plan to release hundreds of migrants weekly into the area.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people," Bogen said in a statement. "If the President will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment."

On Saturday, acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders said in a statement that the agency "has no plans" to transport migrants to northern or coastal cities, including those in Florida as had initially been discussed.

McAleenan said Sunday that migrants will not be flown to several other locations, specifically Detroit and Buffalo, stating the acting CBP commissioner made the decision Saturday not to send them there. McAleenan acknowledged Customs and Border Protection officials did earlier notify local authorities in those areas about the potential of migrants being sent to them.

When asked in a follow-up question whether those communities will no longer be expected to take in some, he responded, "Yeah. That's right. But I think we should really stay focused on what's actually happening on the border."

McAleenan also confirmed that CBP will also not transport migrants to northern or coastal border facilities, saying such a move "wasn't going to be an effective use of resources."

"We have stations on the northern border. They're very small stations. They have a few agents that are busy patrolling their areas," he said. "There wasn't going to be an effective use of resources. But yeah, we had to look at all options. When you have 16,000 people in custody and facilities designed for many fewer, you've got to look at any planning factor you can."

Despite a tweet from President Donald Trump Sunday denying earlier reports that migrants would be sent to northern or coastal border facilities, a CBP official Friday told reporters that authorities were looking at locations across the country where the agency has temporary detention facilities able to process the immigrants upon arrival.

Those locations are primarily along the northern and coastal border, the official said, adding that CBP had "preliminary" conversations with a number of localities across the country about "contingency plans" to fly out groups of recently apprehended immigrant families.

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