WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, meeting with business leaders at the White House on Thursday, described his administration’s moves to deport undocumented immigrants as a “military operation,” a label that runs counter to what his administration has previously said.
Trump has used a series of executive orders to chip away at the barriers to deportations and hire new law enforcement officials to spearhead the effort, using the Department of Homeland Security to live up to the president’s tough talk on undocumented immigration during the 2016 campaign.
“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said Thursday. “And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.
“You see what’s happening at the border. All of a sudden for the first time, we’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out.”
A White House spokesman said Trump did not misspeak by calling deportations a “military operation,” but clarified the president meant “military” as an “adjective.”
“The president was clearly describing the orderly and professional manner in which his executive orders are being implemented, and the administration’s emphasis on removing serious criminals here in the U.S. illegally,” the spokesman said.
Trump, though, is not using the military to deport undocumented immigrants.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told reporters in Mexico City that there would be “no use of military force in immigration operations, none,” and Trump’s administration has gone to great lengths to deny reports that the National Guard would take the lead on deportations.
“Not true,” Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, tweeted earlier this month after The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration was considering mobilizing the National Guard. “100% false.”
The guidelines outlined by the Trump administration, however, do expand the number of undocumented immigrants who are subject to deportation.
“Everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time,” Spicer said. “That is consistent with every country, not just ours. If you’re in this country in an illegal manner, that obviously there’s a provision that could ensure that you be removed.”