As ICE Chief Thomas Homan continues his quest to break the deportations record set in 2012 under President Obama, he is becoming fed up with efforts to shield illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities.
This week, Homan is threatening sanctuary city leaders with charges of violating federal anti-smuggling laws by encouraging local law enforcement to help suspected illegal immigrants avoid his ICE officers. He criticized sanctuary city policy for keeping dangerous illegals out of jail, where they can be easily and safely rounded up, and in the streets, where the process is markedly more dangerous. He called it a politicization of his officers’ safety.
“When we knock on doors, as any law enforcement officer will tell you, it’s risky, it’s dangerous. Compare that to arresting someone in the jail, when you know they don’t have weapons in the jail,” he said. “It’s a matter of time before one of my officers is seriously hurt or doesn’t go home because someone made a political decision on the backs of my officers.”
He also spoke to the huge backlog in the immigration courts, which is the purview of the Justice Department rather than ICE, as another hamper to his goal of increased deportations. The record from 2012 is 409,849 migrants.
The record from 2012 is 409,849 migrants.
“I think 409,000 is a stretch this year, but if [the Justice Department] keeps going in the direction they’re going in, if we continue to expand our operational footprint, I think we’re going to get there,” he told The Washington Times. “Our interior arrests will go up. They’re going to top last year’s, for sure.”
With Trump eliminating Obama-era federal shackles on the number of illegals ICE can arrest, the main impediments to Homan’s goal are coming at the local level. While some cities are willing to engage in 287(g) agreements with ICE, whereby local law enforcement and federal officials cooperate fully, other cities operate in the exact opposite manner. This opens extra legal pathways for immigrants to avoid deportation.
“They can play the system for a long time,” he said. “Shame on people that want to put politics ahead of officer safety, community safety.”
The argument from uncooperative sanctuary cities is that cooperating with ICE frightens both legal and illegal immigrants and dissuades them from reporting other crimes. There is also concern on the side of immigrants coming from the courts, as one judge halted the deportation of Iraqi illegals due to the fact that ICE couldn’t guarantee they weren’t being deported to a place where their status as Christians wouldn’t get them killed.
But Homan warns sanctuary cities of the legal authority he has in his arsenal, citing federal code 8 U.S.C. 1324 that prohibits attempts to “conceal, harbor or shield” illegal immigrants.
“I think these sanctuary cities need to make sure they’re on the right side of the law. They need to look at this … because I am,” he said. “We’re looking at what options we have.”
He warns that if they aren’t going to cooperate, he isn’t either, and it may lead to more arrests than necessary.
“If I arrest a bad guy in the jail, I arrest him. But if I go to his home or his place of employment and arrest the bad guy, and there’s five guys with him? They’re going to come, too,” the chief said.
Homan has a track record of valuing justice over all things, blaming the death of 10 migrants this week on sanctuary city policies. However, Immigrants Rights’ Groups were galvanized by his hard line.
“Dishonest and disgusting,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “This country deserves an immigration debate that connects the dots between development and opportunity in home countries, safe and legal migration policies, and intelligent immigrant integration policies. What it doesn’t need are hard-liners shamelessly politicizing a tragedy.”
But with an extensive career in the Immigration and Customs department, Homan is confident in his characterization of the current state of immigration in the United States.
“People who don’t think we should enforce immigration law — I wish they’d hang out with me for a week,” Homan said. “I wish they were with me in Phoenix, Arizona, — people held hostage. A guy with duct tape all over his body, with a hole, poked out in his mouth where he breathed through a straw for days until they paid his fee. They weren’t with me on the trail in the Border Patrol where we found dead aliens abandoned by smugglers. They weren’t with me standing in the back of that traffic trailer with a 5-year-old boy who suffocated in his father’s arms.”
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