Former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tom Homan wants to unfreeze the agency and help launch a massive and “historic” deportation program if former President Trump returns to the White House in 2025
Homan promised no illegal immigrant would be “off the table” for enforcement.
Homan was honored during the Obama administration for his role leading ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), which arrests and removes illegal immigrants. A Washington Post article at the time said Homan “deports people. And he’s really good at it.”
Homan, a former New York police officer and Border Patrol agent, calls that article a “badge of honor” and has it framed in his office.
Homan went on to lead ICE during the Trump administration between 2017 and 2018 as it was given the green light and arrests skyrocketed. Since the Biden administration took over, deportations have plummeted from a high of 267,258 in fiscal year 2019 to 72,177 in fiscal 2022.
Homan has fiercely defended the agency’s conduct under his watch against left-wing attacks, getting into viral spats with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, during congressional hearings. He is also president and CEO of Border911, a nonprofit that aims to educate Americans on “the facts of a non-secure border.”
But Homan, also a Fox News contributor, could soon be back in government. Trump is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, is leading several polls in a head-to-head with Biden and is promising to launch a full-throated effort to secure the border, end the Biden-era border crisis and deport millions of illegal immigrants if re-elected.
Trump in September promised the “largest domestic deportation operation in American history” if he’s back in the White House, and The New York Times recently reported that Trump met with Homan after announcing his campaign. Homan has repeatedly said he’d take the chance to be part of the administration. And he says removing those with a final order of removal from a federal immigration judge would be a priority.
“People say, ‘How are you going to remove millions?’ The answer is: One at a time,” he told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “No one’s off the table. If you’re in the country illegally in violation of immigration law, you are a target.
“It’s going to have to result in a historic — the biggest ever — deportation operation in the history of this country. That’s what happens. When you’ve got historic illegal immigration, well, that means you’ve got a historic removal program. That’s just the way it is. If we’re going to enforce our laws, that’s the way it is.”
Homan stressed that ICE would continue to prioritize the most serious offenders as it has done during the Trump and Biden administrations and that operations wouldn’t involve indiscriminate “sweeps,” but targeted enforcement operations planned in advance, targeting specific criminal illegal immigrants. But those operations can also result in collateral arrests of other illegal immigrants.
“We’re not going to turn a blind eye to them if they’re in the country illegally. We take them into custody. That’s our job. So, it isn’t like we walk through a neighborhood looking for people who look different from us. These are targeted enforcement operations.”
In terms of logistics, he said the agency would need a lot more detention beds to detain people, more ICE agents to make the arrests, more technical support for those creating the targeted operations and more contractors to search databases. He also said there needs to be legislation that would make someone ineligible for future immigration benefits if someone ignored a judge’s removal order.
“That way, they’re not hiding out waiting for the next amnesty. They’re not hiding out waiting for someone to sponsor them for a visa,” he said.
He also said sanctuary cities — jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE detainers — need to be “held accountable.”
Any such enforcement moves will likely produce massive opposition from left-wing activist groups and Democratic lawmakers who opposed similar moves in the Trump administration. But Homan argues that if people believe in due process of the asylum system then that includes the carrying out of deportations when they are found not to have valid asylum claims.
“Part of due process is executing the final decision of the court,” he said.
“No one’s going to argue if they say, ‘OK, you’re awarded asylum, now you can come in.’ But they have a fit when they’re ordered removed,” he said. “So, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to forget about the due process? Look, if the court orders aren’t going to mean anything, what the hell are we doing? We might as well take the Border Patrol off the border and shut down the immigration courts because, obviously, there’s no enforcement of our immigration law.”
As for the scope of the task ahead, Homan is realistic about the likelihood of deportation of the millions of illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S. during the Biden era on top of the already existing illegal immigrant population.
“I’m not fooling myself into thinking we can remove 20 million people. But, you know, we’re going to give it one hell of a shot and remove as many as we can,” he said.
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Homan argued the enforcement of immigration law is not only just, but also the key to ending the border crisis by ending the primary pull factor drawing people to the border.
“The numbers are not going to stop until these countries start seeing plane loads of people coming home because they were ordered removed, and we removed them.”