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Proposal to Militarize Immigration Policy

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There’s a draft DHS memo floating around today, which proposed using up to 100,000 National Guard troops across eleven states to round up undocumented immigrants. It’s still unclear where this proposal originated, in response to what (though it seems part of the lead-up to the travel ban), and how far its discussion went (Spicer hasn’t denied that the report was discussed). But as Dara Lind makes clear over at Vox,

the fact that it was floated at all is still significant. President Trump arrived in office on the promise of a sweeping crackdown on immigration enforcement, and proceeded to sign executive orders that made substantial changes — but didn’t always provide details.

According to AP, who broke the story,

Staffers in the Department of Homeland Security said the proposal had been discussed as recently as Friday.

Though,

A DHS official described the document as a very early draft that was not seriously considered and never brought to the secretary for approval.

As for the details (also from AP):

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico were 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.

The memo was addressed to the then-acting heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It would have served 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.

If implemented, the impact could have been significant. Nearly one-half of the 11.1 million people residing in the U.S. without authorization live in the 11 states, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on 2014 Census data.

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.”

According to the draft memo, the militarization effort was to be proactive, specifically empowering Guard troops to solely carry out immigration enforcement, not as an add-on the way local law enforcement is used in the program.

Allowing Guard troops to operate inside non-border states also would go far beyond past deployments.

Now, it bears repeating that there’s still a lot unclear about this memo’s direct relation to policy discussions and decisions. But in a context where policy details have been scant, directives have been rushed and poorly-thought out, and anti-migrant rhetoric is still pouring out from positions of power, that this was even floated should give us pause. Accomplishing the goals of Trump’s continuing campaign against migrants will require draconian methods (even if not in this specific form). Rejecting this particular proposal does not mean that equally troubling methods will not be forthcoming.

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