Pro-sanctuary-law protesters rally outside City Hall in Los Alamitos, Calif., in April 2018. (Philip Cheung/For The Washington Post)
Columnist

Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated College Park, Md., allows illegal immigrants to vote in municipal elections. The measure allowing noncitizens to vote did not pass. The column has been updated.

It is mystifying why Democrats are so up in arms about President Trump’s declaration that he is considering releasing illegal immigrants into so-called “sanctuary cities.” After all, Trump’s plan simply follows the Democrats’ own policy prescriptions for dealing with illegal immigrants.

First, Democrats support releasing illegal immigrants into U.S. communities. Just a few months ago, during the negotiations to end the government shutdown, Democrats sought to limit the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention “beds available for interior enforcement” to about 16,500 per day, and to reduce the overall number of available beds to less than 36,000. In January, ICE was holding 48,088 illegal immigrants.

When Homeland Security officials warned this could force the release of thousands illegal immigrants, Democrats openly declared it was their goal to do precisely that. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said the goal of capping the beds was to “force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants.”

Many other leading Democrats — including presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — have gone further, proposing to abolish ICE altogether. In 2013, when she was House minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — now the House speaker — called for an end to deportations for illegal immigrants who have not committed felonies, declaring “Our view of the law is that . . . if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation.” Some Democrats, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and presidential candidate and former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, have gone so far as to propose decriminalizing illegal border crossings entirely. “The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country . . . shouldn’t be a criminal-justice issue,” Castro said.

So, Democrats have been pretty clear — they want illegal immigrants released and allowed to live in the United States.

Where should they live? Well, it was Democrats who created “sanctuary cities” as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. If they want illegal immigrants released, why would they oppose having President Trump release them into the very sanctuaries they created for that express purpose?

If anything, the Democratic leaders of those sanctuary cities are working overtime to turn them into magnets for illegal immigrants. For example, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) recently announced that his plan to provide health care to all New York residents would include illegal immigrants. “I refuse the notion that these folks don’t deserve health care,” de Blasio said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed in his 2019 inaugural address to make the entire state of California a “sanctuary to all who seek it,” and on his first day in office, he proposed making illegal immigrants eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, until age 26. Some sanctuary cities are even allowing illegal immigrants to vote in local elections. In 2016, San Francisco passed Proposition N, which allows illegal immigrants to vote in school board elections.

Sorry, Democrats, you don’t get to have it both ways. You can’t on one hand try to force Trump to release illegal immigrants, create sanctuaries for them and arrange local laws to encourage illegal immigrants to come to those sanctuaries, and then simultaneously be outraged that Trump wants to do exactly what you have said should be done with those who cross our borders illegally.

Whether Trump can legally follow through on his proposal to send illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities is in question. But there is nothing morally wrong with what he has proposed. There is certainly no harm being done to the illegal immigrants. Far from it, they would be sent to welcoming communities where they would receive free health care, protection from deportation and possibly even the right to vote. And then the Americans who voted to turn their cities into magnets for illegal immigrants could bear the costs of supporting them.

If anything, it is conservatives who should be up in arms over the idea of releasing illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities. Once they are in sanctuary cities, then it will be harder to find and deport the ones committing violent crimes. Just ask the family of Kate Steinle.

Trump’s plan likely won’t ever come to fruition, but the president is effectively calling out Democrats for their hypocrisy. There was a time when many Democrats believed, as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a 2009 speech, that “Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple.” No longer. If Democrats won’t help the president secure the border, then there’s nothing outrageous about making them live with the consequences of the policies they advocate.

Read more:

Marc A. Thiessen: Sorry, Mr. President, this country is not ‘full’

Jenny A. Durkan: Seattle isn’t afraid of immigrants, Mr. Trump

The Post’s View: The Trump administration’s arrogant crusade against ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions

Juliette Kayyem: DHS used to guard against all hazards. Trump’s focus on one risk invites disaster.

Letters: Trump’s plan to punish ‘sanctuary cities’