Speaking before the House Appropriations Committee, the chief of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on June 13 that anyone who is living in the country without authorization can be arrested and ordered deported. Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, told the committee, “If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by being in this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder. You need to be worried.” He added, “No population is off the table.”
Homan’s remarks were a watershed in immigration enforcement.
Barack Obama forbade much of the enforcement of immigration law. Arrests and deportations of illegal aliens to address the 11 million living in the country have dramatically increased during the Trump administration. Homan was unapologetic.
The Trump administration has requested a significant increase in the amount of spending for immigration enforcement, not only on the border but in the interior as well. Carla Provost, the acting Border Patrol Chief, defended the 74 miles of border wall that President Trump wants to build next year, despite opposition from Democrats. She told the Appropriations Committee that the construction could begin next March or April, adding that will assist in preventing drug smuggling and human trafficking near San Diego and along the Texas border.
Homan said that he needs more beds in detention facilities to house the many more illegal immigrants his agents are expected to bring in. The number of countries refusing to take back their citizens has dropped by half, he said. Local jurisdictions are receiving training for their officers to process illegal immigrants, and approximately 400,000 illegal immigrants ordered removed by judges but ignored by the Obama administration are now back on the list of priorities.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) asked Homan not to deport illegal immigrants convicted of drunk driving. “DWI or traffic is not really considered to be the type of people that are hurting our country,” he said. But for Homan, DWI is a public safety risk: “They should be removed.” Saying that anyone not authorized to be in the country is subject to enforcement. “We shouldn’t wait for them to become a criminal,” he said.
Despite criticism from Democrats, ethnic solidarity groups such as La Raza, and immigrant rights advocates, Homan said his agents are merely enforcing the laws as written. He said that no other branch of law enforcement faces the level of abusive questions as his employees do. It is the illegal immigrants themselves, he said, who deserve the blame for separating families. Homan said that when a American citizen commits a crime and goes to jail, the officers who catch him are not blamed for keeping him away from his family. Homan credited the increased level of enforcement as part of the reason illegal immigration at the southwestern border has been at an ebb.