President Donald Trump’s administration is considering mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, according to The Associated Press. The Trump administration strongly denied the report Friday morning.
A draft memo obtained by The Associated Press outlines a Trump administration proposal under consideration to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants. Millions of those who would be affected in 11 states live nowhere near the Mexico border.
The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. If the proposal is implemented, governors in the affected states would have final approval on whether troops under their control participate.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the AP report is not true.
“That is 100 percent not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” Spicer said.
“I don’t know what could potentially be out there, but I know that there is no effort to do what is potentially suggested,” he said. “It is not a White House document.”
Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general.
While National Guard personnel have been used to assist with immigration-related missions on the U.S.-Mexico border before, they have never been used as broadly or as far north.
The memo is addressed to the then-acting heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It would serve as guidance to implement the wide-ranging executive order on immigration and border security that President Donald Trump signed Jan. 25. Such memos are routinely issued to supplement executive orders.
Also dated Jan. 25, the draft memo says participating troops would be authorized "to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States." It describes how the troops would be activated under a revived state-federal partnership program, and states that personnel would be authorized to conduct searches and identify and arrest any unauthorized immigrants.
The draft document has circulated among Department of Homeland Security staff over the last two weeks. As recently as Friday, staffers in several different offices reported discussions were underway, according to the AP.
If implemented, the impact could be significant. Nearly one-half of the 11.1 million people residing in the U.S. without authorization live in the 11 states, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on 2014 Census data.
Trump campaigned on building a wall between the United States and Mexico (paid for by Mexico) and stepping up deportations for undocumented immigrants already in the country. In November of 2015, then-candidate Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that there would be a “deportation force” to deport the 11 million unauthorized immigrants.
“You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely,” Trump said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said during a townhall meeting on CNN in January that there would be no “deportation force.”
“If you’re worried some deportation force is coming and knocking on your door this year, don’t worry about that,” Ryan said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been conducting enforcement raids around the country in recent days.
On Thursday, many protesters participated in a “Day Without Immigrants,” to protest Trump’s policies and proposals. Schools and restaurants across the country closed in support.
National Guard soldiers can be deployed by either the governor of their state of the president of the United States, according to nationalguard.com. The Guard “responds to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counterdrug efforts, reconstruction missions and more,” according to the site.
In 2006, President George W. Bush called for up to 6,000 National Guard members to “assist with surveillance, installing fences and vehicle barriers” in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to support the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s effect as part of Operation Jump Start.
In 2014, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — now Trump’s nominee for energy secretary — sent 1,000 National Guard soldiers to the Rio Grande Valley to help protect the border.
“You are now the tip of the spear in protecting Americans from these cartels and gangs,” Perry said, according to the San Antonio News-Express.
The president signed an executive order titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” on Jan. 25, just days after taking office.
“Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety. Such aliens have not been identified or inspected by Federal immigration officers to determine their admissibility to the United States,” the executive order reads. “The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed.”
The executive order called for the building of detention facilities as well as the wall.
The executive order is distinct from Trump’s order suspending refugee resettlement and barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Courts have stayed the ban in that executive order, and Trump is planning to issue a new one next week.