The White House on Friday strongly denied an Associated Press report that the Trump administration is considering a plan to mobilize National Guard troops to arrest immigrants living illegally in the U.S.
“There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said of the report, according to pool reports.
“That is 100% not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this.”
Spicer said he could not categorically say the idea was never discussed by 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.
The AP, citing a draft memo, earlier Friday reported the White House is considering mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops across 11 states in an anti-illegal immigration effort. The memo was written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the report said.
Spicer said the draft memo AP referenced was “not a White House document.”
The AP says in its report that it sought comment from the White House and Department of Homeland Security on the story.
Trump promised during his campaign to form a “deportation force” to deport the more than 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
But it would be highly unusual for the National Guard, which is typically called up to respond to natural disasters or violent unrest, to carry out deportations.
Immigrant-rights groups said the plan would represent an inhumane militarization of immigration enforcement.
“We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, and we believe in the rule of law not the might of a strongman,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the liberal group America’s Voice.
Some of the first steps Trump has taken in the early days of his presidency have been designed to ramp up deportations.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents rounded up nearly 700 undocumented immigrants in a five-day nationwide operation.
The Department of Homeland Security said 75 percent of those arrested were convicted criminals and that the apprehensions were in line with past practices.
But a directive issued by Trump during his first week in office expands the definition of criminals who are targeted for deportation to include those who entered the country illegally, which is a misdemeanor offense.
That’s different from 2011 guidance issued by the Obama administration, which told immigration agents to prioritize recent arrivals, national security threats and serious criminals for deportation.