Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city would welcome migrants apprehended at the southern border if President Donald Trump makes good on his plan to send them to sanctuary cities.
Weinberger first announced his position Saturday afternoon following the president’s tweet Friday that he is "giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities," or municipalities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Weinberger has vowed to buck the Trump administration's immigration policies before, and on Monday, the mayor called the president's latest proposal “un-American.”
“Here in Burlington, we do not buy into, we do not support [Trump’s] very dark vision of immigrants that are attempting to come to this country to seek asylum,” Weinberger said at an afternoon news conference.
He said immigrants are often “fleeing very difficult situations” and have enriched Burlington’s community.
Weinberger said he was compelled to react to Trump’s tweets, including one that said the U.S. “has the absolute legal right” to transport migrants across the country. It’s unclear whether the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has taken any action to enforce Trump’s plan, the Associated Press reported Monday, but in case things move quickly, Weinberger said the Queen City is prepared.
The mayor discussed the issue “at length” Monday morning with city officials and has contacted state and federal groups connected to immigration issues should the plan be enacted, he said.
Weinberger said the city’s planning isn’t an overreaction despite the president’s well-known tendency to tweet policy statements that lack plausibility.
"It is very difficult to decipher what is real from what is just bluster and posturing,” Weinberger said. “I am taking this seriously, though. I do sense that this may not materialize, but on the other hand … there has been turnover in Homeland Security in recent days over disagreements over policies.”
Indeed, on April 7, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned, a move widely seen as a result of her refusal to enforce Trump’s more aggressive border policies. Days earlier, Trump withdrew a nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, wanting “tougher” leadership, the New York Times reported.
Weinberger has waded into the immigration debate before. In 2016, the city pushed back against Trump's efforts to “deputize our law enforcement officers” as border agents, Weinberger said, and in 2017, Burlington celebrated when a federal court ruled the U.S. Justice Department couldn’t revoke funding for cities that fail to enforce immigration directives.
Olivia LaVecchia, communications coordinator for the Burlington mayor's office, said Monday that the city doesn’t have the $40,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant in hand, but it has been cleared to receive it.
Weinberger called this latest Trump tango “Round Three” on immigration and urged the president to break from his typical “disruptive and chaotic” leadership style.
The mayor said Burlington is paying close attention to the White House, but so far, there’s no need to panic. He added that the Burlington area has welcomed more than 5,000 New Americans over the last 30 years, creating a stronger and more diverse community.
“For those that want to try to make a new life here as asylum-seekers, we will mobilize our local efforts ... to ensure that that is as welcoming and compassionate and seamless a process as possible,” Weinberger said.