Hardline xenophobic elements within the Trump administration and the Republican Party are beating the drums about immigration, two months before the status of Dreamers is set to expire.
Thomas Homan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director, said Tuesday that local officials who don’t fully cooperate with the agency should face criminal prosecution.
“We gotta take [sanctuary cities] to court, and we gotta start charging some of these politicians with crimes,” Homan said in a Fox News interview.
Homan made remarks the day after California became the first-ever sanctuary state—a reaction to the election of Donald Trump and his administration’s anti-immigrant policies. The move bars state officials from voluntarily complying with ICE.
According to an analysis published this week in The Los Angeles Times, abusive employers in the Golden State have already taken advantage of Trump’s election. Last year, complaints to state labor regulators “over immigration-related retaliation threats” were up by almost a factor of five—to 96 from 20. Roughly one-in-five undocumented immigrants in the United States reside in California.
Homan also issued the threat against sanctuary jurisdictions as House Republicans press Trump to take a hardline on negotiations over Dreamers–the 800,000 undocumented US residents facing the imminent loss of their temporary status in March.
Dreamers had been granted deportation protections through an Obama administration initiative–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Trump administration announced in September it would not renew the safeguards, saying Congress must act.
Some House Republicans–like Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Dave Brat (R-Va.)–have called for the GOP to refrain from negotiating on Dreamers’ final status before intensifying the crackdown on undocumented immigrants. In a recent interview, Brat echoed the arguments of far-right nationalist politicians in Europe.
The backlash has called into question whether legislation protecting Dreamers can pass the House. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is pushing for a stand-alone vote on DACA, in a move that could empower conservative hardliners.
Democratic leaders in Congress, meanwhile, are pushing for the inclusion of the DREAM Act in talks over the latest government funding bill–a move that would see Dreamers receive a path to citizenship.
The federal government is set to run out of money in a few weeks, yet again, on Jan. 19—the third such deadline since the start of December. Top Congressional Republicans and Democrats and White House officials are set to discuss legislation to avoid the impending shutdown on Wednesday afternoon, as Bloomberg noted.