Marty Walsh doesn’t know what to think about Donald Trump’s ‘crazy’ sanctuary city plan

The Boston mayor also shared some thoughts about the media coverage of the president.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh  presents his proposed Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) operating budget to the Boston City Council at City Hall in Boston, MA on April 10, 2019.
Marty Walsh presents his proposed operating budget to the Boston City Council earlier this month at City Hall in Boston. –Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

Mayor Marty Walsh says he doesn’t know what to think about President Donald Trump’s purported plan to release detained immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities.

Boston is among such cities in Massachusetts that limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal government efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. The city’s Trust Act, passed in 2014, directs Boston police to ignore detainer requests from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, unless immigrants are wanted for a separate crime.

Trump administration officials told The Washington Post last week that the Republican president’s proposal to relocate immigrants detained at the southern border to sanctuary cities is aimed at punishing the typically Democratic cities for their policies. However, according to the Associated Press, administration officials have pushed back on the plan, raising legal and logistical concerns.

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In a tweet Monday, Trump maintained that detained migrants “will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!”

“First of all, you just don’t know what to think,” Walsh told WGBH in an interview Monday. “This guy just comes up with crazy ways … He doesn’t want immigrants here; now’s he’s going to be dumping people in cities.”

The Boston Democrat noted that, in a way, the policy is already occurring. During his trip to Arizona last month for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, Walsh said he talked to fellow mayors who said ICE was already dropping immigrants off at local bus stations upon their release from detention centers, amid the recent influx of Central American migrants seeking asylum.

“They literally drop people off at bus stops,” he said. “And then what happens is the church organizations down there kind of help them find their way to family or what have you. So Trump’s doing that right now in America.”

“The thing that bothers me is that there’s still no conversation around immigration reform in this country,” Walsh added. “That’s the problem. We have some issues. Somebody is going to have to address that some day — to really think about how we move forward here.”

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The mayor, whose office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, went on to express concern about the media’s coverage of Trump, which he suggested was quantitatively unbalanced in the president’s favor. While that criticism of the media’s Trump coverage has been widely shared dating back to the 2016 election, Walsh said the trend was again occurring in the context of the 2020 race.

“The media still covers him every single day, all the time, and they’re not giving any real air to the Democratic candidates for president,” Walsh said. “And I’m concerned about that, because generally at this point, at this stage in the game, there’d be town hall meetings that’d be on TV that would be talking about Democrats.”

As of Tuesday, CNN had held 13 Democratic candidate town halls since the beginning of the year. MSNBC and Fox News have also held several televised candidate events. Still, Walsh said Trump was effectively taking advantage of the news cycle and viewers’ short-term attention spans.

“This guy is dominating the news,” he said. “And he finds those weak moments where people want to hear something out of his mouth. They don’t judge him on his entire presidency; they judge him on a comment or something he says about something.”

Walsh clarified that he was “not criticizing the media.”

“What I’m saying is just make sure when you’re out there covering him, cover the race on the Democratic side,” he said. “Because it’s so important, as we head into 2020, to have a real challenger on the other side that can actually, you know, I think, win the presidency.”