Acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan informed a House subcommittee Tuesday they should expect increase deportation of family units and sharply defended his agency from criticism from political attacks.
“One thing ICE is in the process of doing is we are going to step up our enforcement of family units that have final orders of removal,” he bluntly told a House Border Security and Maritime subcommittee hearing.
According to Homan, approximately 71,500 members of family units were apprehended in FY 2017 and that number is “on track to increase significantly in FY 2018.”
In order to clear a growing backlog, it is necessary to act to deport those who’ve had their due process and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge, stated Homan, who announced his retirement in April.
The interim chief anticipated actual enforcement of the law would result in “a lot of letters” asking why ICE is targeting families and not criminals.
“But if they are given their due process and a federal judge makes a decision, if we don’t execute those decisions there is no integrity in the system,” Homan asserted.
Homan’s assertion that lawbreakers, not law enforcement, are at fault was warranted as the curtain on the political theater went up before the gavel was brought down.
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) appealed to her radical base by posting a photo of a group of protesters who’d positioned themselves behind Homan with raised “Refugees Welcome Here” signs.
“People came to make their voices heard today at a Homeland hearing on #immigration and #familyseperation. I hear you loud and clear. #RefugeesWelcomeHere,” she tweeted.
And her antics continued. First, she insinuated subcommittee chairman Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) was seeking to gain political points in her campaign to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake by holding the hearing.
Then she opened her questions of Acting Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ronald Vitiello with a speech about how it made her “sick to my stomach” to hear illegal immigrants described as criminals.
“We love to talk about this issue of MS-13 gangs. We love to paint immigrants as criminals. That is not the complete facts and that is very offensive for me to see continuing to happen,” she complained.
Before the next member spoke, Homan asked for a chance to respond to Barragan.
“First of all, no one on this panel is anti-immigrant. We’re law enforcement officers enforcing the laws that you all enacted. So to sit there and say that we’re anti-immigrant is wrong. We are enforcing laws,” said Homan, acting ICE director.
He continued: “If you think it’s OK to enter this country illegally — you shouldn’t be arrested, that’s just wrong. The laws clearly state, ‘You enter here illegally, it is a crime.’”
Barragan was not the only California Democrat whose griping about enforcing existing laws got under Homan’s skin.
Rep. Lou Correa started by incorrectly accusing Homan of calling all immigrants “dangerous,” then complained to the ICE chief that farmers in his district were calling his office demanding more workers for the fields.
A clearly frustrated Homan responded, “The statement I made is entering this country is illegally is a crime, it is a violation of Federal law.”
Correa interrupted to say “they are needed at these farms.”
Unimpressed, Homan reminded the lawmaker that “it’s up to Congress to make changes in the guest worker program” if they are needed.
“But violating the laws of this country isn’t the answer,” he snapped.
Gabi Trainor writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.