The White House distanced itself Friday from a Department of Homeland Security draft proposal to use the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants, but lawmakers said the document offers insight into the Trump administration's internal efforts to enact its promised crackdown on illegal immigration.
Administration officials said the proposal, which called for mobilizing up to 100,000 troops in 11 states, was rejected, and would not be part of plans to carry out President Donald Trump's aggressive immigration policy.
If implemented, the National Guard idea, contained in an 11-page memo obtained by The Associated Press, could have led to enforcement action against millions of immigrants living nowhere near the Mexican border. Four states that border on Mexico were included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompassed seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Despite the AP's public release of the document, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said there was "no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants."
A DHS official described the document as a very early draft that was not seriously considered and never brought to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for approval.
However, DHS staffers said Thursday that they had been told by colleagues in two DHS departments that the proposal was still being considered as recently as Feb. 10. DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen declined to say who wrote the memo, how long it had been under consideration or when it had been rejected.
The pushback from administration officials did little to quell outrage over the draft plan. Three Republican governors spoke out against the proposal and numerous Democratic lawmakers denounced it as an overly aggressive approach to immigration enforcement.
The AP had sought comment from the White House beginning Thursday and DHS earlier Friday and had not received a response from either.
After the AP released the story, Spicer said the memo was "not a White House document" and said there was "no effort to do what is potentially suggested."
Governors in the 11 states would have had a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, which bears the name of Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general.
If implemented, the impact could have been significant.