The White House and Department of Homeland Security said today that they are not planning to use the National Guard to apprehend and arrest undocumented immigrants, despite a "preliminary draft memo" that indicated doing so was a possibility.
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"The President and the White House has never had that as part of any plan to use the National Guard in any capacity for that," White House Deputy Spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One today.
But a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security told ABC News there was in fact "a very early, preliminary draft memo” that included language to utilize the Guard to, as the memo put it, "perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, and detention of aliens in the United States."
The proposal would have covered 11 states -- those bordering Mexico as well as those adjacent to them.
This senior official confirmed that the memo, circulating online, appears to be an authentic version of that early draft, but that the latest version had removed any reference of using the National Guard as a law enforcement and immigration force.
DHS officials insist Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly never saw that version of the document and that his name appears on it only because he would be the person who ultimately signs off on it.
Kelly has seen the latest version and his name still appears on it, according to this official.
"The Department is not considering mobilizing the National Guard for immigration enforcement," a spokesman for DHS said.
Using the National Guard for the purpose of border protection is by no means unprecedented. There were two major border protection efforts that employed the Guard under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama: operations Jump Start in 2006 and Phalanx in 2010. But neither were along the scale of what this plan was proposing. The biggest difference being the proposal to allow Guardsmen to arrest people.
Operation Jump Start authorized National Guard to do border enforcement and construction of a fence, but they were there to observe and report and were not involved in law enforcement. Under Obama they were mainly doing overflight and surveillance, working with law enforcement on the ground. They weren’t arresting people.
Nevertheless, the DHS is adamant there is no longer any proposal to use the National Guard to arrest illegal immigrants and that this draft never made it to the secretary's desk for consideration.