NEWARK, NJ - It would have been a “blessing” if President Trump followed through on a proposed plan to have immigrant detainees released into sanctuary cities like Newark, Mayor Ras Baraka said.

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“His curse is our blessing,” Baraka said during an interview on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton,” referring to Trump. “Many of these immigrants have kept cities afloat in difficult economic times. They opened up stores, they purchase goods and services in the community, uplifted our economy. So this does nothing but create more opportunity for folks in our city.”

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White House officials tried to put pressure on federal immigration authorities to release detainees into sanctuary cities as a way to alleviate a shortage of beds in detention facilities and as political retribution, the Washington Post reported. Under the proposal, detainees would have been bused and released to cities like Newark.  

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The mayor in 2017 designated Newark as a sanctuary city, or a location where local authorities will not hand over undocumented migrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities.

But Baraka's stance on immigration has come under scrutiny. Essex County has a contract with ICE to house immigrant detainees at the county jail, which is located in Newark.

MORE: Despite Newark's Sanctuary City Status, Undocumented City Resident Turned Over to ICE

Baraka has said the cooperation between Essex County working with federal immigration authorities should end. But city council, which is backed by the mayor, has refused to call for an end to the contract despite pushback.

Sharpton, a reverend who once praised Baraka after he honored him with a key to the city, asked the mayor to comment on the morality of “detainee camps.”

“It has nothing to do with his morality. I don't think that's in it at all,” Baraka said, again referring to Trump. “I think that he just simply believes that these folks are lesser than human or less than people, period. So they should be able to do to them whatever they want.”

Baraka, on MSNBC, refuted the narrative that immigrants or undocumented migrants would create problems or take jobs from Newark residents.

“Most of the jobs that a lot these undocumented folks gets are jobs that not necessarily people want to do in the first place,” he said on the segment that aired yesterday. “They are working in these communities. Sometimes they're working under the table at places that will hire them. It's very difficult for them to get employment in the first place.”

Watch the full segment: 

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