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Trump Says He’ll Use National Guard to Deport Migrants, Doubling Down on Anti-Immigration Rhetoric

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WASHINGTON  — Donald Trump says he’d use the National Guard as part of efforts to deport millions of migrants across the country if he’s reelected, signaling that he’s doubling down on anti-immigration rhetoric that fueled his previous rise to power.

Trump’s comments came during a lengthy in-person and telephone interview with Time magazine earlier this month. The accompanying story was published online on Tuesday.

Trump didn’t say how exactly he’d carry out the deportation operations and what role the National Guard would play in them. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said he wasn’t opposed to using active duty military if needed but that he thought the National Guard would do the job.

“If I thought things were getting out of control, I would have no problem using the military,” he said. “We have to have safety in our country. We have to have law and order in our country. And whichever gets us there, but I think the National Guard will do the job.”

U.S. military forces — both National Guard and active duty — have historically been used at the border to back up immigration personnel. However, using National Guard forces, or active-duty military, to help directly with deporting migrants, especially in the interior of the country, would be a drastic escalation of their use in the immigration sphere and would likely run into legal challenges.

During Trump’s first term, the Department of Homeland Security considered using National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants but the plans ultimately never came to fruition.

Presidents have used troops, often National Guard forces, to bolster border security in different ways. President George W. Bush called on National Guard troops to bolster security along the southwestern border in “Operation Jumpstart,” while “Operation Phalanx” under President Barack Obama also used National Guard troops in similar ways.

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have also used active duty troops and National Guard forces to bolster border security and assist with immigration-related tasks.

But those forces at the border have been used in specific, restricted ways like data entry, surveillance or warehouse support or to provide logistical support in ways that don’t interact directly with migrants and are designed to free up immigration personnel to do their jobs.

When it comes to finding and removing people from the country, that’s generally the purview of the Enforcement and Removals Operations arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They identify, arrest, detain and remove people who have been determined to not have the right to stay in the country.

This can often be a lengthy and expensive process because removals are often done by airplane and because many countries don’t agree to take back migrants from their countries.

Federal law generally prohibits the use of active-duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S., unless specifically authorized by Congress.

When Trump was asked specifically whether he would override restrictions on using the U.S. military against civilians, Trump said the people that would be targeted aren’t civilians.

“These are people that aren’t legally in our country. This is an invasion of our country. An invasion like probably no country has ever seen before,” Trump told the magazine.

Trump has made cracking down on immigration a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, repeating a strategy that worked for him when he first ran for office.

He’s accused migrants of “poisoning the blood of the country” and referred to people in the U.S. illegally who are suspected of committing crimes as “animals.” He’s vowed to end birthright citizenship and reimpose his travel ban that originally targeted seven Muslim-majority countries.

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