The country’s top immigration enforcement officer says he is looking into charging sanctuary city leaders with violating federal anti-smuggling laws because he is fed up with local officials putting their communities and his officers at risk by releasing illegal immigrants from jail.
Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also told Americans to expect more work site enforcement targeting unscrupulous employers and more 287(g) agreements with willing police and sheriff’s departments that want to help get illegal immigrants off their streets. Eventually, he said, ICE will break the deportation records of 409,849 migrants set in 2012 under President Obama.
“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.”
Mr. Homan is the spear tip of President Trump’s effort to step up immigration enforcement — perhaps the largest swing in attitude for any agency in government from the last administration to the current one.
Agents and officers have been unshackled from the limits imposed by Mr. Obama, whose rules restricted arrests to less than 20 percent of the estimated illegal immigrant population.
Now, most illegal immigrants are eligible for deportation, though Mr. Homan said serious criminals, recent border crossers and people who are actively defying deportation orders are still the agency’s priorities.
He said the biggest impediment to expanding deportations is no longer ICE priority, but rather a huge backlog in the immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department. Migrants who in the past would have admitted their unauthorized status and accepted deportation are now fighting their cases.
“They can play the system for a long time,” he said.
That resistance extends well beyond the courtroom.
Migrants are increasingly refusing to open doors for his officers and, when they do, the encounters are turning violent, Mr. Homan said. Use-of-force instances are up about 150 percent, and assaults on ICE officers are up about 40 percent, he said.
Local officials are also pushing back, declaring themselves sanctuaries and enacting policies that block their law enforcement officers from cooperating with ICE.
The refusals range from declining to hold migrants beyond their regular release time to refusing all communication — even notifying ICE when a criminal deportable alien is about to be released into the community.
For Mr. Homan, who came up through the ranks of the Border Patrol and then ICE as a sworn law enforcement officer, that sort of resistance is enraging.
“Shame on people that want to put politics ahead of officer safety, community safety,” he said.