Thomas Homan, current acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), defended his agency, which continues to face controversy for what the UN has called human rights violations of immigrants, at an event hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
With public opinion hardening against the government pursuit of illegal immigrants, Homan responded to the wave of criticism by saying at the event, “A lot of people want to attack ICE. I see it every day. They want to call ICE racists, Nazis. If you think ICE is racist, is Congress racist because it enacted those laws?”
He said this on June 5 at an “Immigration Newsmaker” event at the National Press Club. The forum was hosted by CIS, an organization that the Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC) has classified as an anti-immigrant hate group. Their labeling of CIS as such is based on their long history of “demonizing immigrants,” passing biased reports against illegal immigrants as legitimate, and spreading white nationalist writings and views.
Homan also added that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was responsible for the separation of families. According to Newsweek, his words were, “CBP decides who we’re getting. Because of that prosecution, they are separating families. I transport the children to a [Department of Health and Human Services] facility. That’s our job.”
He also echoed this defense when a reporter showed Homan a video of a child weeping during their father’s arrest by ICE agents. He said, “I feel bad. Law enforcement officers throughout this country see sad things every day, but we have a job to do.”
Controversy Over Immigration Enforcement
At the same time that the event was happening, ICE conducted a massive raid at a Sandusky, Ohio gardening and landscaping company. The Washington Post reported that ICE agents arrested 114 workers suspected of being illegal immigrants and sent many to detention centers. They also wrote, “Dozens of the workers’ children were left stranded at day-care centers and with babysitters.”
All this is happening in the last month of Homan’s time in ICE. In a statement released in April 2018, Homan gave his family as his reason for retiring. He said, “The decision to leave federal service after more than 34 years is bittersweet, but my family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to serve and it’s time for me to focus on them.”
He said this during a period when ICE and other organizations charged with enforcing immigration laws are under intense media and public scrutiny for their role in several news stories involving the government’s recently-created policy of separating arrested parents from their children. In addition to the Sandusky raid, another raid at a Tennessee meat-processing plant resulted in the arrest of 97 workers, whose children are also being affected.
These events, and the surrounding public outcry, come in the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s declaration in April that, under a new “zero tolerance” policy, anyone who enters the country illegally will be prosecuted regardless of circumstances. Sessions has acknowledged that this may cause an increase in splitting families, which Homan defended by saying, “Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents from children when they’re arrested for a crime. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy.”
Homan’s Imminent Retirement
According to The Hill, President Donald Trump, who appointed Homan as acting director of ICE in January 2017, wanted him to lead the agency permanently. Despite Homan’s plans to retire that month, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly offered him the position. Trump even wished for Homan to stay on permanently.
According to NBC, a Department of Homeland Security official said that Homan’s “tough stance on immigration would have made it difficult for him to secure the needed votes” for confirmation as permanent director. His time as chief has been marked by “increased arrests of noncriminal migrants and raids on workplaces.” He has actively supported the Trump administration’s immigration policies, said that politicians in sanctuary cities should be criminally charged, and infamously stated that illegal immigrants “should be afraid.”
SPLC also connected Homan’s retirement to the controversy in their own article about his participation in the CIS event. They wrote, “His resignation comes at a time when ICE is under major scrutiny for militaristic worksite raids and separating migrant parents from their children.”
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