A draft memo circulating within the Trump administration calls for the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers to help round up undocumented immigrants, the Associated Press reported on Friday. The White House strongly denied that such a plan would be implemented.
According to the AP, the memo, which it says was written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, calls for as many as 100,000 members of the U.S. National Guard to be used to create what is essentially a “deportation force”—one of Trump’s key, and most controversial campaign promises from the 2016 election.
In late 2015, during the early stages of the presidential election, Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that, “you’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely”—plans he compared to President Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback,” which oversaw the removal of 1.5 million immigrants.
The 11-page draft memo describes plans to mobilize National Guard troops not only along the United States’ southern border with Mexico, but in states such as Oregon and Louisiana. The other states named in the memo are: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas,, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The AP noted that the order would necessitate each state’s governors’ approval for their National Guard troops to be used “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.”
According to the AP, the draft memo was composed in late January, and has been under discussion among Department of Homeland Security employees for the past several weeks.
News of the draft memo comes following a week of nationwide raids on immigrant communities—part of President Trump’s increasingly harsh response to undocumented peoples living within the United States—during which nearly 700 immigrants were detained.
Administration officials immediately pushed back forcefully on the AP’s report. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called it “100% not true.” However, speaking to reporters, Spicer would not deny that the plans described in the draft memo had ever been part of broader conversations among the president’s team.
“I don’t know what could potentially be out there,” Spicer told the White House press pool. “But I know that there is no effort to do what is potentially suggested.”
“It’s not a White House document,” he added.
The Department of Homeland Security dismissed the memo as an early draft.
The AP claimed it had reached out to both the White House and the DHS regarding the memo several times before publishing their reports, but received no response.
I have reached out to the AP for comment on the White House denials.
While there is precedent for the military to assist in border enforcement, if this draft memo were turned into policy, it would mark a dramatic leap in the militarization of the immigration process both in terms of geographic scale and the sheer number of troops involved.
Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants—though, as is often the case, he has also backtracked on that promise at times.