WASHINGTON — Mayor Bill de Blasio abruptly canceled plans to meet with President Donald Trump and other mayors at the White House Wednesday, after the Department of Justice issued a letter targeting “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers.
“I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values,” de Blasio wrote in a 12:33 p.m. tweet.
The Justice Department said Wednesday it had issued a letter to 23 cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles “demanding the production of documents that could show whether each jurisdiction is unlawfully restricting information sharing by its law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.”
New York City under de Blasio has taken steps to restrict federal immigration agents from accessing information about city residents living in the country illegally, including limiting federal authorities’ access to inmates at Rikers Island.
De Blasio initially was scheduled to meet with Trump at 3 p.m. with more than 100 other mayors. The session on the nation’s infrastructure coincided with a two-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and de Blasio joined other big city mayors in boycotting the gathering.
“I came down here ready to have a serious meeting and what I got was a publicity stunt from the Trump administration,” de Blasio said at a news conference several blocks away from the White House.
U.S. Conference of Mayors President Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, also skipped the Trump meeting, saying the DOJ memo made the meeting “untenable.”
“When the President is prepared to engage in an honest conversation about the future of our shared constituencies, we will be honored to join him,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Until that time, mayors of both parties will work together to keep our cities safe, hold this administration accountable to its promises, and protect immigrant communities — with or without Washington’s help.”
The meeting, where 82 of the 109 invited mayors hailed from states Trump won in 2016, went on as planned with Trump addressing the no-shows in his remarks.
“The mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal, illegal immigrants over law abiding Americans,” Trump said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration, “has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities. We support enforcing the law and following the law. And that is the Department of Justice’s job ... if mayors have a problem with that, they should talk to Congress, the people that pass the laws.”
Asked about Sanders’ remarks, de Blasio said, “they’re simply trying to demonize immigrants as part of their congressional strategy.”
De Blasio has promised to use local legislation and legal challenges to fight Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda.
In a television appearance Wednesday morning in New York on Fox’s “Good Day NY,” de Blasio said he had every intention of attending the White House meeting later in the day to discuss the city’s infrastructure needs.
“You would like to believe a president, especially a president who grew up here would want to help us to continue to grow and deal with an infrastructure crisis,” de Blasio said.
“We have I think the number is over a hundred bridges over a hundred years old,” he said. “We have a subway system in crisis. You go down the list. There are so many things, there is no way in the world we here can cover all these expenses.”