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 ‘crimmigrants’ from jail.
Washington Times 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.
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.
Sanctuaries say that cooperating with ICE frightens immigrants — both legal and illegal — and makes them less likely to report other crimes. They say that is a bigger threat to public safety than crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
Asked whether that means he will recommend prosecutions, he said, “We’re looking at what options we have.” The law carries a penalty of five years in prison in most cases, but penalties could rise to include life in prison or even death if someone is killed during the crime.
Mr. Homan said refusing to cooperate is counterproductive for sanctuary cities, whose goal is to protect illegal immigrants from deportation. He said if his agents have to knock on doors in the community, then thy are likely to encounter still more illegal immigrants to round up.
“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.
Indeed, those kinds of arrests have stirred anger among advocacy groups, which say “collateral” arrests are hurting immigrant communities.
Mr. Homan said the number of police and sheriff’s departments signed up for the 287(g) program allowing them to help process illegal immigrants for deportation from their jails has already doubled under Mr. Trump and should triple by the end of the year.
He said he also has received inquiries from departments that want to restore 287(g) task forces, which would train state and local police to enforce immigration laws on the streets. Mr. Homan said he is studying that possibility.
His agency has even begun arresting parents who pay smugglers to bring their children on the dangerous journey to the U.S. Mr. Homan said it was too early to talk about numbers for that operation.
Trump’s illegal alien deportation program is also hitting the Muslim community hard, especially Somali Muslims.