The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has authored a memo calling for implementing the mobilization of 100,000 National Guard troops for immigration enforcement. According to the memo, National Guardsmen 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.”
Trump’s spokesperson Sean Spicer says that the AP report “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, who has repeatedly lied to the press, has little credibility. According to the AP, a number of Department of Homeland Security staffers have seen the memo and several said that it was under active discussion last week. These Homeland Security staff were from several different offices, lending greater credibility to the existence of the memo.
The states where the mobilization would take place are “California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana,” according to the Associated Press.
This move to militarize interior immigration enforcement is unprecedented in living memory. The National Guard was used briefly by the George W. Bush administration for immigration enforcement after September 11, but there are significant differences between that deployment and the plan the Trump Administration is considering.
The Bush deployment used the National Guard exclusively along the border with Mexico. The Trump plan would use the Nationa Guard both at the border and in the interior. In fact, most of the states on the mobilization list have no common border with Mexico. The Trump plan contemplates National Guard units making arrests in cities and rural areas in the states named on the list.
During the Bush deployment, the National Guard acted as back-up for the Border Patrol, but the Trump proposal would authorize the National Guard to act independently, to question and arrest suspected undocumented immigrants. Even so, federal review found that the National Guard troops were poorly trained and violated immigrants’ rights.
The Bush deployment involved very small numbers of National Guard troops, 2,000 or fewer at any one time, but the Trump effort would use up to 100,000.
The militarization of immigration enforcement carries with it grave risks. National Guard weaponry and training are not good matches for immigration enforcement. In addition, using poorly trained Guard soldiers to question and arrest immigrants is likely to lead to widespread racial profiling and other abuses.
This is yet another indication that the Trump Administration has declared war on immigrants. Fortunately, under current law, the president is unlikely to be able to mobilize the Guard unless the governors of the states in question agree to join in the plan.