WASHINGTON (AP/KXAN) — The Trump administration denies it’s considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants in 11 states. A draft memo obtained by The Associated Press calls for the militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as Lousiana. Staffers in the Department of Homeland Security say the proposal was discussed as recently a week ago. But an official with the department says the document was a very early draft that wasn’t seriously considered.
In response to the news about the National Guard, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “That is 100 percent not true. It is false. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.”
Millions of those who would be affected in 11 states live nowhere near the Mexico border. Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. 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.
Requests to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment and a status report on the proposal were not answered.
The draft document has circulated among DHS staff over the last two weeks. As recently as Friday, staffers in several different offices reported discussions were underway.
Use of National Guard troops would greatly increase the number of immigrants targeted in one of Trump’s executive orders last month, which expanded the definition of who could be considered a criminal and therefore a potential target for deportation. That order also allows immigration agents to prioritize removing anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”
Under current rules, even if the proposal is implemented, there would not be immediate mass deportations. Those with existing deportation orders could be sent back to their countries of origin without additional court proceedings. But deportation orders generally would be needed for most other unauthorized immigrants.
Last week, ICE officers arrested more than 680 people around the country in what Kelly said were routine, targeted operations; advocates called the actions stepped-up enforcement under Trump.
Over the past few weeks, Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations have increased in the areas of San Antonio and Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and New York City as part of Operation Cross Check. The Homeland Security Secretary says they netted more than 680 arrests last week.
A total of 51 foreign nationals were arrested in the Austin area, ICE said. Twenty-three of the 51 had previous criminal convictions.