Homeland Security on AP’s National Guard: ‘Absolutely Incorrect’

An explosive report that Secretary Kelly wanted to use troops to “round up” undocumented immigrants gets serious pushback.

Sandy Huffaker/Getty

The Department of Homeland Security is roundly condemning an Associated Press story that broke Friday morning about considering the use of the National Guard to “round up” undocumented immigrants. The DHS says that isn’t true, and—contra the AP’s reporting—that DHS Secretary John Kelly didn’t write the draft memo.

“The Department is not considering mobilizing the National Guard,” said Gillian Christensen, the acting press secretary for DHS.

A DHS official told The Daily Beast that the memo the AP cited was an early, pre-decisional draft, that Kelly never approved it, and that the department as a whole never seriously considered it.

The AP reported that the draft memo suggested using National Guard troops to “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.”

The AP also reported that Kelly wrote the memo, but Christensen told The Daily Beast that that is “absolutely incorrect.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, denied the AP’s report on Twitter shortly after it published.

“Not true. 100% false,” he tweeted.

The draft memo, which the AP published in full after putting up its initial story, discusses the possibility of using the National Guard for immigration enforcement. It directs the heads of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “immediately engage” with the governors of the border states and states that touch those states about using their National Guard troops for immigration enforcement. That would mean Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, and Nevada.

The memo, dated Jan. 25, 2017, says that Trump’s executive order on border security was issued on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. But the president didn’t issue any immigration-related executive orders that day, indicating the DHS memo was written before his inauguration and during the transition process.

A former Obama administration DHS official suspects memo was likely written by someone close to the Trump White House team, and who had detailed knowledge of the president’s planned immigration executive orders—potentially a member of the transition team who worked on DHS issues. It could have taken many days, if not weeks, to write the memo, the official noted, and said it was written by someone who had a detailed understanding of how DHS operates.

The official said it’s likely the author (or authors) of the memo worked closely with the team that drafted Trump’s immigration executive orders.

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, issued a statement ripping the memo.

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“Regardless of the White House’s response, this document is an absolutely accurate description of the disturbing mindset that pervades the Trump Administration when it comes to our nation’s immigrants,” she said. “The Trump administration has wasted no time validating its deep-seeded contempt and disregard for America’s immigrant communities.”

And Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, also released a statement decrying the memo.

“The mere suggestion that the President would consider ordering 100,000 members of the National Guard to go door to door checking people's document status is deeply disturbing,” she said. “The National Guard's principal responsibility is to help people in distress after natural disasters and respond to rare instances of domestic unrest. Deploying them for any other purpose is a severe mismanagement of resources, an abuse of Executive Power, and conjures images of Japanese internment camps and mass deportations of Mexican immigrants under President Eisenhower. I challenge Republicans and Democrats, whether they are members of Congress or Governors, to condemn this plan and ensure it never sees the light of day.”

Over the course of Trump’s first few weeks in office, numerous news outlets have reported on drafts of executive orders that have yet to be signed or implemented. The New York Times reported on a draft that would have brought back CIA black site prisons, and The Nation reported on a draft executive order that would “legalize discrimination” against LGBT people. The president has not signed executive orders on either counts.