Can the National Guard Serve as Immigration Enforcement?

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 22, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Along with the new executive branch's hard-line anti-immigration stance, legal questions have arisen as to how far the federal government can go in their efforts to enforce immigration laws. One such recently raised question is whether the National Guard can be used to enforce immigration laws and deportations.

The executive branch currently maintains that there are no plans to use the National Guard to enforce immigration laws or form a deportation force. However, reports are indicating that the idea has been discussed, which raises questions as to whether it is legal to use the National Guard in that manner.

Purpose of the Guard

It is commonly understood that the purpose of the National Guard is to protect America at home and step in when there is a "state of emergency." Most frequently, the Guard provides non-military emergency relief, aid, and peacekeeping during emergencies, such as natural disasters, or extreme weather. Also, the Guard can be mobilized to protect citizens against foreign attacks or even civil insurrections and riots.

What might come as a shock to many, though, is that the National Guard was called up in 2010, by President Obama, and earlier by President Bush, to help on our nation's borders. However, in the past, it has mostly been to play a supporting role, secondary to Customs and Border Protections. National Guard troops stepped into the roles of Border Patrol officers during those times when the Border Patrol did not have adequate staff, as well as served as observers, analysts, and in other high level, advisory roles.

Can the National Guard Enforce Deportation Orders?

In short, yes. Traditionally and from a resource management perspective (the Guard is our last line of defense at home), it would be irresponsible to use the Guard for this purpose (as there is a whole federal agency devoted to this purpose). However, the National Guard and the Coast Guard are excluded from laws that prevent using the military to enforce domestic policy.

As the commander and chief of the National Guard, the president can mobilize the Guard to support federal agencies such as Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if the need arises.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard