The National Guard Immigration Force is a Template for Narrative Creation on Both Sides


This morning AP broke the story that the Trump administration was considering using up to 100,000 National Guard troops to assist in border enforcement and the arrest of undocumented immigrants.

The reaction was what we’ve come to expect in the fast and furious three weeks of the Trump presidency. Fevered outrage, flabbergasted denials, and even a little applause, on the far right.

The White House quickly denied the report, saying the memo didn’t come from them, and they never considered it. “#FakeNews” was declared, but that’s not where stories like this die.

Now that it’s in the national consciousness as a Trump proposal, whether it actually is or not, people are going to be asked about it. And that’s just what the Huffington Post did this morning, asking governors of all 11 affected (but not actually affected) states to comment.

Whether you get denials, endorsements, or repudiations is irrelevant; it’s all news. If a GOP governor of a border state endorses the non-proposal proposal, cable news goes wall-to-wall with pundits engaged in character assassination. If a GOP governor of a border state condemns the proposal, the story becomes how Trump is so radical Even His Own Party™ won’t support him.

Further, you have the Well Actually™ brigade (of which I am admittedly a regular member) saying the memo doesn’t even say “deportation”.

This is splitting hairs bordering on trolling. No, the word “deportation” does not exist in the National Guard section of the memo, but “removal” (or a variation thereof) does three times. It also says:

Additionally, I am directing the Commissioner of CBP and the Director of ICE to immediately engage with the Governors of the States adjacent to the land border with Mexico and those States adjoining such border States for the purpose of entering into agreements under section 287(g) of the INA to authorize qualified members of the State National Guard, while such members are not in federal service, or qualified members of a state militia or state defense force under the command of the Governor, to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, and detention of aliens in the United States.

No, the National Guard wouldn’t be loading aliens on personnel carriers and transporting them across the border. But they would be arresting and imprisoning them as de facto immigration agents. Whether they physically deport them is irrelevant.

And actually, none of the “headlines say deportations”, even the intial AP tweet clipped above. The headlines about the denials all say “deportation”, because that’s how the question was asked to Spicer. The original headlines all say “round up”, which is what the memo would specifically authorize the National Guard to do, if it were enacted as an executive order.

Unmentioned is that the order would also deputize local law enforcement to provide the same services.

To maximize participation by state and local jurisdictions in the enforcement of federal immigration law, I am directing the Director of ICE to engage with all willing and qualified law enforcement jurisdictions for the purpose of entering into agreements under section 287(g) of the INA.

In most cases, local cops, sheriffs, and state troopers have no obligation to enforce federal law, only laws passed in their jurisdictions. Federal law enforcement is supposed to enforce federal law. That’s one reason “sanctuary cities” are such a misnomer. Cities aren’t flaunting federal law, they’re exercising their right to not use their own resources to enforce it.

Along with the National Guard, this order would enlist more states, counties, and cities to be de facto ICE agents to perform the same functions mentioned before, but also for “removal” as the memo makes clear:

Aliens who engage in criminal conduct are priorities for arrest and removal and will most likely be encountered by state and local law enforcement officers during the course of their routine duties. It is in the interest of the Department to partner with those state and local jurisdictions through 287(g) agreements to assist in the arrest and removal of criminal aliens.

I understand that enlisting the National Guard in these functions would be a bigger story because they carry bigger guns, but there are far more local and state law enforcement officers in question. Trump wouldn’t need to create a new deportation force; he’s already got one ready to go in almost every police precinct below the 36th Parallel.

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