Residents of at least one Washington D.C. neighborhood woke up on Thursday to find the area plastered with posters urging them to turn in illegal immigrants, but federal authorities denied putting up the signs and denounced them as inciting fear.
The bogus posters bearing the seal of the Department of Homeland Security warned about criminal offenses related to harboring or helping people in the country illegally, and gave phone numbers to report information about them to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"If you see something, say something," said the flyer, titled "Sanctuary City Neighborhood Public Notice" and written on the ICE letterhead.
Washington is among dozens of so-called sanctuary cities that offer safe haven to illegal immigrants, and local police are under orders not to cooperate with federal authorities seeking to deport residents. An attempt by the administration of President Donald Trump to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities has been blocked by a court.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter that the posters were aimed at scaring residents of the heavily Democratic city and that she had ordered police and the Public Works Department to remove them.
"Tear it down! DC is a sanctuary city," she said.
Carissa Cutrell, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency had not put up the posters and called them dangerous and irresponsible.
"Any person who actively incites panic or fear of law enforcement is doing a disservice to the community, endangering public safety and the very people they claim to support and represent," she said in an email.
Cutrell said she had no information about who might have put up the posters or whether the number of telephone calls to her agency had increased.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)