WASHINGTON—Tom Homan, deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said people who don’t like to see immigration laws enforced need to stop attacking his agency and instead talk to their congressional representatives.
“I see it every day. They want to call ICE racist, they want to call us Nazis,” Homan said during a wide-ranging interview hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies on June 5.
“What I want to make clear is, you can not like what we do, but don’t vilify the men and women … [who] are simply doing their job. They’re putting their life on the line every day.”
Homan said his agency is simply enforcing the laws enacted by Congress.
“We’re not making this up. We’re enforcing law,” he said. “If you don’t like what we do, then talk to your congressman and senator and tell them you don’t like the law.”
Homan said critics should focus less on ICE and more on the people the agency arrests, “and what they did to put themselves in that position.”
A video shared on social media shows a father outside his vehicle being arrested by ICE officers in Los Angeles last year. One of his daughters can be heard sobbing in the background of the video.
Homan said he was shown the video by a reporter recently and was asked how he felt about it.
“I feel bad. I mean, law enforcement officers throughout this country see sad things every day. Well, we have a job to do. It doesn’t mean ‘it’s sad, so we’re going to ignore it.’ No,” he said.
“He chose to enter the country illegally in violation of federal law. He chose to do that intentionally. Does he have any responsibility for violating that law?” Homan said. “He had due process, at great taxpayer’s expense, in front of an immigration judge and ignored that court order. If you and I ignored a court order, we’d be arrested and put in jail.”
The man, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a Mexican native, had previously been deported after a DUI conviction. Reentering the United States after being deported is a felony.
“If that’s the message we want to send—enter the country illegally, hide, have a child, and now you’re immune from law enforcement—if that’s the message we want to send the rest of this world, you’re never going to solve the immigration crisis,” Homan said.
A Battle With New York
Homan was asked about a cease and desist letter that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent ICE in April. The letter accused the agency of “reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions” and threatened legal action.
Cuomo claimed that recent enforcement actions by ICE agents in New York “raise significant legal and public safety concerns” and called the conduct of ICE agents involved in recent arrests “egregious and unconstitutional.”
Homan, who hails from New York, said ICE is not going to stop what it’s doing.
“Last year, we arrested nearly 5,000 criminal aliens off the streets of New York. So rather than a cease and desist letter, a letter of thank you would be appreciated,” he said.
“What I’m asking for is a little decency, a little recognition of the 20,000 men and women that work for ICE, that leave the safety and security of their home every day and strap a gun to their hip to defend this nation and defend their communities.”
Homan is set to retire at the end of June.