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'Oakland welcomes all': Mayor responds to Trump's claim that she doesn't want released immigrants

President Donald Trump is pictured walking to Marine One. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

President Donald Trump threw more fuel on the flames of the immigration debate Saturday night in a series of tweets that singled out Democrats and news outlets that had reported on his administration's plan to relocate migrants to so-called "sanctuary cities."

Trump specifically singled out the Democratic mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, who had criticized a proposed policy to relocate detained immigrants to sanctuary cities as an "abuse of power and public resources."

Then the president claimed that she does not actually want the detained immigrants to be released into her city. In fact, Schaaf's administration strengthened Oakland's sanctuary policy in 2018 and had warned residents last year of an upcoming raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Video: President Trump said April 12 there could be plans to release 'illegals' into sanctuary cities, adding he can give states like California an 'unlimited supply.' (The Washington Post)

On Saturday night, she responded to Trump's attack with a clear message: "Oakland welcomes all."

The president characterized the undocumented migrants as "gang members, drug dealers, human traffickers, and criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds," a frequent trope in his immigration rhetoric that has faced widespread criticism from Democrats and immigration advocates.

"Sanctuary cities" are jurisdictions that limit, to various degrees, how much their local law enforcement will work with federal immigration authorities to deport undocumented immigrants. Trump frequently invokes these cities in his calls for stricter immigration laws, and they serve as symbols for what he believes are failed immigration policies.

The exchange between the president and Oakland's mayor comes after another week of twists and turns in Trump's quest to implement his immigration agenda.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that the White House had considered a plan to release migrants into sanctuary cities as a way to put pressure on Democratic politicians. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif, district was reportedly on the list of places considered. The policy was rebuffed by ICE.

"This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion," the White House statement said in response to the story.

But Trump later contradicted his aides and embraced the policy in a series of tweets on Friday.

Schaaf appeared on CNN and NPR's "Weekend Edition" to condemn the president's proposal, saying she was "proud to be the mayor of a sanctuary city."

"This is an outrageous abuse of power and public resources," she said Friday on CNN. "The idea that the administration thought in any way that it would be acceptable to use families and children, human beings, as political retribution against their enemies should infuriate every American regardless of political affiliation."

Since his first days in office, Trump has attempted to reign in sanctuary cities or states, arguing that they create security threats for the American citizens living there. He has attempted to withhold their federal funding, and his administration has sued states such as California, which passed controversial statewide sanctuary laws in 2017 in an effort to blunt Trump's immigration policies. Most of Trump's attempts have been blocked by courts.

This article was written by Kayla Epstein, a reporter for The Washington Post.