Why yes, Trump immigration czar and avowed white supremacist asshole Stephen Miller wanted to militarize the border with Mexico using a quarter of a million troops and then send in special forces kill squads and drones to wipe out drug cartel dealers in the name of fighting terrorism. Defense Secretary Mark Esper refused to go along with the plan, and Esper later quit in November after the election when it became clear that Trump was going to consider using the military to stay in power after his loss.
President Trump’s defense secretary thought the idea was outrageous.
In the spring of 2020, Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, was alarmed to learn of an idea under discussion at a top military command and at the Department of Homeland Security to send as many as 250,000 troops — more than half the active U.S. Army, and a sixth of all American forces — to the southern border in what would have been the largest use of the military inside the United States since the Civil War.
With the coronavirus pandemic raging, Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, had urged the Homeland Security Department to develop a plan for the number of troops that would be needed to seal the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico. It is not clear whether it was officials in homeland security or the Pentagon who concluded that a quarter of a million troops would be required.
The concept was relayed to officials at the Defense Department’s Northern Command, which is responsible for all military operations in the United States and on its borders, according to several former senior administration officials. Officials said the idea was never presented formally to Mr. Trump for approval, but it was discussed in meetings at the White House as they debated other options for closing the border to illegal immigration.
Mr. Esper declined to comment. But people familiar with his conversations, who would speak about them only on condition of anonymity, said he was enraged by Mr. Miller’s plan. In addition, homeland security officials had bypassed his office by taking the idea directly to military officials at Northern Command. Mr. Esper also believed that deploying so many troops to the border would undermine American military readiness around the world, officials said.
After a brief but contentious confrontation with Mr. Miller in the Oval Office, Mr. Esper ended consideration of the idea at the Pentagon.
Mr. Trump’s obsession with the southern border was already well known by that time. He had demanded a wall with flesh-piercing spikes, repeatedly mused about a moat filled with alligators, and asked about shooting migrants in the leg as they crossed the border. His aides considered a heat-ray that would make migrants’ skin feel hot.
Around the same time that officials considered the huge deployment to the American side of the border with Mexico, Mr. Trump also pressed his top aides to send forces into Mexico itself to hunt drug cartels, much like American commandos have tracked and killed terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the officials said.
Mr. Trump hesitated only after aides suggested that to most of the world, military raids inside Mexico could look like the United States was committing an act of war against one of its closest allies, which is also its biggest trading partner, the officials said.
In the end, rather than a vast deployment of the military to the border, the Trump administration used an obscure public health rule — which remains in effect to this day — to deny asylum and effectively shut down entry into the United States from Mexico during the pandemic. But taken together, the ideas under discussion that spring underscore the Trump administration’s view of the armed forces as a tool of the presidency that could be wielded on behalf of Mr. Trump’s domestic political agenda in an election year. And it further reveals the breach between Mr. Trump and his top military officials, who worked behind the scenes to prevent what they viewed as the president’s dangerous instincts.
Several aides to the former president did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
The Last laugh of course belongs to Miller, as Biden is using his "Remain in Mexico" plan to banish thousands of refugees due to COVID-19, and continues using ICE facilities to detain undocumented immigrants inside the US. Nothing's really changed on America's border plan from Trump to Biden, only now that Biden's doing it, it's an "unprecedented border crisis".
Of course, if Trump had won and Miller had gotten his way in a second term, we'd be talking about the thousands of refugees shot and killed by US Army troops on the border instead.
I guess that's progress, right?