ICE Director: ‘We Got to Get the Message Straight’

Zenny Phuong | July 28, 2017 | 1:16pm EDT
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Acting ICE Director Tom Homan (Screenshot of C-SPAN video)

( -- In a White House press briefing Thursday, a top immigration enforcement official said there has been a “mis-messaging” that the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement is raiding neighborhoods and creating roadblocks to enforce deportation.

“We got to get the message straight: ICE prioritizes arrests based on criminal threats, national security, those who violate immigration laws,” said Tom Homan, acting director of ICE.

Homan said the Obama administration prioritized criminals and national security threats. The difference from the current administration, he said, is the requirement of a conviction before detaining and taking custody.

“That's not necessary anymore,” he said. “If you've been arrested for a serious crime, and you're in a county jail, we're going to drop a detainer, we're going to take the person into custody.”

According to Homan, “dropping a detainer” means the local jurisdiction has the authority to hold these immigrants until ICE takes custody of them. The strategy has proven effective in minimizing criminal and national security threats as more jurisdictions are now coming to the table, Homan said.

A reporter in the briefing room referred to a story in June where ICE arrests experienced the sharpest increase for non-criminal undocumented immigrants. He questioned whether ICE is going after undocumented immigrants that have yet committed another crime.

“I mean, under the prior administration, non-criminals were not a priority, so when you go from 0 to 100, of course you're going to see the biggest rise in that,” Homan said. “Anybody who reads the executive orders -- no population is off the table.

But whether or not they have committed another offense since passing the border, he said, they are already a criminal by entering the country illegally. So ICE is seeking anyone that gets a court order from a judge and refuses to leave, Homan said.

“And when they get their due process at great taxpayer expense -- billions of dollars are spent on border security, immigration court, detention,” Homan said. “So when they get their due process, and a federal judge orders them removed, that order needs to mean something or the whole system has no integrity.” 

Homan said the media can help in spreading the “legal message,” which is “you cannot be a part of this country if you do not respect its laws.”

“Nowhere else in law enforcement has anybody asked a law enforcement agency to ignore a judge's order from a bench,” Homan said.

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