WASHINGTON: The White House on Friday said there was no plan to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants, after a news report asserted that the proposal had been under consideration by the Trump administration.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters he could not categorically say the move had never been discussed anywhere in the administration. The Associated Press reported the proposal to mobilize up to 100,000 National Guard troops was part of a draft memo being circulated at the Department of Homeland Security.
Spicer sharply criticized the report. “There is no effort at all to … utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” he said. “This is 100 percent not true.”
David Lapan, a spokesman for DHS, said the department was “not considering mobilizing the National Guard for immigration enforcement.”
The AP said the draft memo, dated Jan. 25, had been circulating among DHS staff for about two weeks and was addressed to the then-acting heads of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Customs and Border Protection.
It reported the 11-page document called for an unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement on the states bordering Mexico — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — and also encompassed seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The AP said the memo was meant to serve as guidance to implement the wide-ranging executive order on immigration and border security that President Donald Trump signed on Jan. 25.
A DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the memorandum obtained by the Associated Press was an “early, early version” of a document being prepared by staff for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Discussion of the National Guard was dropped before the memo ever made it to Kelly’s desk, the official said.
The memo being prepared for Kelly has not yet been finalized but is expected to be finished soon, the official said.
Separately, Vice Admiral Robert Harward has turned down an offer to be Trump’s new national security adviser (NSA), the latest blow to a new administration struggling to find its footing.
Trump said on Friday he is considering four people to serve as his top aide on security, including acting NSA Keith Kellogg.
Kellogg, a retired general, stepped into the role after Michael Flynn resigned on Monday amid controversy over his contacts with Russia.
Harward told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was “very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally.”
“It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward said. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”
Asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council (NSC), Harward said: “I think that’s for the president to address.”
Following Flynn’s ouster, administration officials said his deputy, KT McFarland, was staying on at the NSC. McFarland is a former Fox News analyst.
Harward would have replaced Flynn, who resigned at Trump’s request Monday after revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US during the transition.
Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.
Harward, a former Navy SEAL, served as deputy commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) under Gen. James Mattis, who is now defense secretary. Harward served on the NSC under President George W. Bush and commissioned the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).
Upon retirement in 2013, Harward became chief executive officer for defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).