Trump administration officials are openly floating the idea of mass arrests of mayors of sanctuary cities. Two different high-ranking officials discussed this on national television in January alone. On January 16, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, at her department’s request, federal prosecutors are “reviewing what avenues might be available” to arrest and prosecute mayors of sanctuary cities for harboring unauthorized immigrants. Two weeks earlier, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan told a Fox News host, “We gotta start charging some of these politicians with crimes.”

The question here is not whether sanctuary policies are wise. The question here is whether our constitutional democracy can survive mass roundups of mayors and governors for refusing to use local resources to help enforce federal immigration.

As explained in an opinion piece on Truthout:

Is this a red flag for autocracy? Some take comfort in Trump’s disorganization and distraction. On this theory, breaking the republic is a full-time job, not something you squeeze in between golf and live-tweeting morning television. But as longtime Putin critic Masha Gessen notes, the first rule for survival in an autocracy is to “believe the autocrat. He means what he says.” And even if Trump himself doesn’t know how to achieve his goals, the people running the president’s immigration enforcement policy — Secretary Nielsen, Acting Director Homan and, of course, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — know what they are doing, and how to achieve what they and the president want.

Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe cooler heads will prevail. But we should reflect on the chilling fact that President Trump’s handpicked appointees to run immigration enforcement openly discuss prosecuting the mayors of US cities. We must prepare for the day when the administration makes good on its threat.

Read the full piece on Truthout here.