WASHINGTON — An internal Department of Homeland Security memo from last month proposed calling up as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, an agency official said Friday.
But DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the memo, dated Jan. 25, was an early draft document that was not seriously considered.
"The department is not considering mobilizing the National Guard,'' Christensen said in a statement to USA TODAY.
The memo was first reported Friday by the Associated Press, which drew an angry response from the White House. Press secretary Sean Spicer said the AP report was "100% not true."
“It is false,” he said. “It is irresponsible to be saying this.”
Nevertheless, the draft memo by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, said troops in 11 states could be mobilized, including those bordering Mexico, but also as far north as Oregon. They 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."
The memo specified that Trump "has determined that the lawful detention of arriving aliens pending a determination of their inadmissability and eligibility for immigration relief has a significant deterrent effect on illegal immigration."
The memo was written on the same day President Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to "employ all lawful means to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens." It is addressed to the then-heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The memo was meant to implement the Jan. 25 executive order, and "implements new policy designed to deter illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens who have no lawful authority to enter or remain in the United States."
On Friday, Spicer told reporters aboard Air Force One that “there is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.”
He said it is “not a White House document,” but he could not rule out whether it has been under discussion elsewhere in the administration.
“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.
Pro-immigrant groups and Democratic members of Congress, already on alert because of Trump's stalled ban on immigration for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, was quick in reacting.
“The mere consideration of this type of militarized immigration enforcement is reprehensible, and would greatly increase the extreme adversity faced by those who have sought refuge in the United States," said Michelle Brané, director of the migrants rights and justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission.
“The proposed use of our nation’s military personnel in such a manner is eerily reminiscent of the dark days of World War II when Japanese Americans faced similar treatment," said Robert McCaw, government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. McCaw's statement refers to Executive Order 9066, which President Franklin Roosevelt signed on Feb. 19, 1942. That created a system of 10 internment camps that housed more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent for the duration of World War II.
Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon, which is one of the 11 states where Guard troops could be mobilized, called the proposal "dangerous," adding that it "serves only to tear apart & destroy American businesses."