The Trump administration may or may not be seriously considering mobilizing the National Guard to deport illegal immigrants. (The link goes to the draft memo, not a secondary source.) The reason why the administration would need state governors to agree is that a federal mobilization of the ARNG to enforce domestic law would violate the Posse Comitatus Act. (Again, the link is to the actual text.)
But the Trump administration has begun making spectacular immigration raids. Those raids, however, are not picking up very many people: only 680 in the first week, according to this report. And the deportees are all criminals, whom the Obama administration was already deporting in massive numbers.
So what is the point? Two possibilities.
- This is just the start of a massively stepped-up program, including those National Guard mobilizations and lots of new federal spending.
- This is intended to give Trump voters a sense that something dramatic is being done. The terror that it strikes among immigrants is collateral damage. (Or maybe collateral benefit, from Steve Bannon’s point of view.)
Considering that this administration appears to be the opposite of a well-oiled machine in terms of management ability, but does seem to be taking the permanent campaign to a new level, I would bet on the latter. Like the infamous taco bowl tweet from the campaign, this is aimed squarely at angry white voters.