Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan on Tuesday offered a forceful defense of his agency and President Donald Trump’s administration while blasting so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions for making their communities less safe.
Speaking at an event sponsored by The Heritage Foundation, Homan said it is important to keep in mind that — contrary to the rhetoric of enforcement opponents — any time ICE arrests an illegal immigrant, he has already been judged by a court to have violated U.S. immigration law.
“ICE’s job is to execute that order,” he said. “If anybody in this room ignores a judge’s order, what would happen to you? But they want to vilify the men and women for doing their job and executing a judge’s order issued from the bench. Shame on these folks.”
Homan disputed media reports that White House aides — white supremacists, in some accounts — wrote the list of immigration priorities that the Trump administration released earlier this month — priorities it laid down as a condition of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Theses policies were written by career law enforcement officers,” he said. “They weren’t written by the White House. They asked us.”
Homan, a career immigration officer who was set to retire when Trump tapped him to serve as acting director of the 20,000-officer agency, said ICE has made more than 100,000 arrests since January 22 — a 42 percent increase over the same period last year. The agency has also issued 80 percent more requests for local officials to hold illegal immigrants for ICE, he said.
The increased activity reflects the directives Trump outlined in a pair of executive orders he signed shortly after taking office.
Homan noted that those executive orders ran many pages.
“He could have [done] the executive orders in one sentence — ICE will now enforce the laws enacted by Congress and on the books,” he said.
The proliferation of cities and counties — and, recently, the entire state of California — passing sanctuary polices has made ICE’s job harder, Homan said. He said no local official would support such opposition to the mission of FBI agents, Environmental Protection Agency officers or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“There’s not another law enforcement agency in this country where people ask them not to enforce the laws,” he said.
Homan said politicians who advocate for sanctuary policies mislead their own citizens into thinking they are preventing immigration enforcement and making communities safer. The opposite is true, he said.
He pointed to an illegal immigrant recently released from jail in California’s Sonoma County under a sanctuary policy. That illegal immigrant went on to kill his girlfriend a couple of weeks later, Homan said.
“Every criminal alien that gets released by a sanctuary city that reoffends has committed a crime that is preventable … That doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “Even the immigrant communities don’t want criminals in their community.”
The irony, Homan said, is that sanctuary policies actually make it more likely that illegal immigrants who do not meet ICE priorities will be deported. When ICE cannot pick up criminal illegal immigrants in jails, officers will hunt them down in the communities.
That means enforcement is more dangerous for the ICE officers, the communities at large, and the illegal immigrants themselves, Homan said. And it makes it more likely that ICE will arrest and deport other illegal immigrants caught with the criminals.
“So those politicians that chose to make a political statement over public safety, that want to tell the community sanctuary cities protect the community from ICE — wrong,” he said. “Because now you just put all these people who weren’t on my radar on my radar.”
Homan said aggressive enforcement is necessary to prevent a lack of integrity. He pointed to an amnesty Congress granted in 1986.
“It was supposed to be the last time we did it. Did it work? No,” he said. “‘Cause as long as people think they can get in this country, violate the law of this country, and they can be immune from the law, we won’t fix it. The president is fixing it.”