From campaigning for a new border wall to cracking down on sanctuary cities, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan says he’ll “never back down” from safeguarding the border and advancing President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“If you violate the laws of this country, if you enter illegally, which is a crime, it’s not going to be OK anymore,” Horman declared during a speech at the Border Security Expo in San Antonio in early February, adding that he “100 percent support[s] the wall.”
In 2017, Homan announced that illegal border crossings were at a 45-year low.
“Under this president, who’s now letting us do our job and taking the handcuffs off the men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE, arrests are up,” Homan said in an interview on “America’s Newsroom” in December 2017.
Trump touted the agency’s success in an early-morning tweet on Wednesday.
“45 year low on illegal border crossings this year,” the president wrote. “Ice and Border Patrol Agents are doing a great job for our Country. MS-13 thugs being hit hard.”
ICE removed 226,000 people from the U.S. in the 2017 fiscal year – down 6 percent from 2016. During the same time period, the agency arrested more than 110,000 people, a 42 percent increase over the previous year.
Here’s what you need to know about Homan, and about his priorities as acting ICE chief.
Who is Thomas Homan?
Homan was appointed ICE director, replacing Daniel Ragsdale, in January 2017. He previously served as ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations (ERO).
A 33-year law enforcement veteran, Homan served as an NYPD officer and Border Patrol agent before holding several positions within ICE, which was established in 2003.
“ICE was created based on the recognition that global threats have become more dangerous, and a new approach was needed to ensure the security of the U.S. homeland and the American people,” the agency explains on its website.
Homan was named assistant agent in charge in Dallas after ICE was created. Nearly a decade later, in March 2009, he transitioned to the role of assistant director for enforcement of ERO before being promoted to deputy executive associate director, according to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security.
In 2015, Homan was given the Presidential Rank Award, which recognizes individuals for “exceptional performance over an extended period of time.”
“Thomas Homan deports people. And he’s really good at it,” The Washington Post said in an April 2016 profile.
What is Homan focusing on as ICE director?
Stepping up enforcement in sanctuary cities like California
ICE began launching “targeted immigration enforcement operations” in major cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, after California became a sanctuary state on Jan. 1.
Homan spoke against the state’s decision, calling it a “dangerous policy.”
“By passing this bill, California politicians have chosen to prioritize politics over public safety,” Homan wrote in a statement, adding that this “deliberately obstructs our country’s immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders.”
ICE agents arrested more than 150 individuals in violation of federal immigration law in the Oakland and Fresno areas during a three-day sweep at the end of February.
Roughly half of those arrested by deportation officers have convictions for assault and battery, crimes against children, weapons charges and DUIs, according to the agency.
Homan believes the raids would have been more successful if Libby Schaaf, the Democratic mayor of Oakland, hadn’t warned constituents on Twitter. He estimates about 800 criminal aliens were able to elude capture, and federal immigration agents were put in danger because of Schaaf’s alert.
“What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’ when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to a whole community. This is beyond the pale,” Homan told “Fox & Friends” on Feb. 28.
Schaaf says she doesn’t “regret sharing this information,” adding that no laws were broken by doing so.
Building a better border wall
Homan has repeatedly said he’s “100 percent” behind Trump’s proposal to build a border wall along the country’s southernmost border.
“The border wall is a good tool,” Homan said in an interview on “America’s Newsroom” in October. “We have proven it worked. Why would we not want to do it?”
In 2017, illegal immigrants from 140 different countries were deported from the U.S., according to Homan, and he believes a border wall would help protect the country.
“Every place they built a barrier, the illegal crossings decreased significantly,” Homan told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo in January.
Making courthouse arrests
In February, Homan signed a policy that sends deportation agents to federal, state and local courthouses to make arrests.
A two-page directive states that ICE agents will enter courthouses only for specific targets, such as convicted criminals, gang members, public safety threats and immigrants who have been previously deported or ordered to leave.
Family, friends and witnesses won’t be picked up for deportation, unless there are “special circumstances,” according to the agency.
Immigration agents were told to avoid making arrests in non-criminal areas of the court, like family court and small claims, unless it’s approved by a supervisor.
ICE reaffirmed its 2014 policy is in place to avoid deportation arrests at “sensitive locations,” including schools, day cares, hospitals, places of worship, funerals, weddings and public demonstrations. Courthouses have never been part of that list.
“We’re not going to do it in the courtroom, but to me it’s safer,” Homan said in an interview in November. “It makes sense to arrest a criminal in a criminal courthouse.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Trump cowboy plots political future after Capitol breach
TULAROSA, N.M. — He rodeoed in a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West show, carried his message on horseback from the Holy Land to Times Square and was invited to the White House to meet the president.
But luck may have run out for this cowboy pastor who rode to national political fame by embracing former President Donald Trump with a series of horseback caravans and came crashing down with a defiant stand Jan. 6 against President Joe Biden’s election.
Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation and federal charges.
And yet he remains determined. He sees himself as governor one day.
The first-term county commissioner forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into a promotional Cowboys for Trump posse to spread his conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.
Trump’s election defeat has left the 47-year-old father in a lonely fight for his political life after preaching to crowds at the U.S. Capitol siege, promising to take his guns to Biden’s inauguration and landing in jail for over a week.
In Washington, prosecutors unveiled photographs of Griffin climbing a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps.
Public defense attorneys say a close reading of the law shows the area wasn’t off limits. They say Griffin didn’t partake in violence and was well within his free speech rights as he voiced election grievances and attempted to lead a prayer with a bullhorn.
Griffin is one of thousands of Trump loyalists in public office who are charting an uncertain future ahead of the 2022 election cycle. He’s part of a smaller cadre who flirted with insurrection on Trump’s behalf and may still pay a high price. In all, more than 400 people were charged in the insurrection, which left five dead and dozens of officers injured.
Griffin has been rebuked by some Republicans over his racial invective. He’s also been suspended from Facebook and banished from Native American lands in his district as he contests charges of breaking into the Capitol grounds and disrupting Congress that could carry a one-year sentence. A recall effort is underway, amid a bevy of lawsuits.
Still, loyal constituents are easy to come by in a rural county steeped in the anti-establishment, pro-gun culture that dominates southern New Mexico.
“He means no malice on anybody,” said George Seeds, outside the New Heart Cowboy Church in Alamogordo where Griffin once served as pastor. “His concern is the direction of this country, where it’s going.”
Defiance of federal government and its oversight of public lands are staples of politics in Otero County, which spans an area three times the size of Delaware, from the dunes of White Sands National Park to the peaks of the Lincoln National Forest.
Banned from Washington until testimony or trial, Griffin has returned to the routines of home in a tidy double-wide trailer in Tularosa, working most days as a stone mason. A donkey named Henry brays from a side yard.
In a conversation with The Associated Press, Griffin says he learned to love the spotlight during five years as an expert rodeo hand in a Wild West show at Paris’ Disneyland park.
His rides with Cowboys for Trump through numerous states were a reprise of proselytizing trips he made from Ireland to Jerusalem, before social media, to hand out the Gospel of John.
The group captivated the public imagination with its first outing, a 2019 flag-waving ride down the shore of the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery.
Ramie Harper, a 67-year-old former bull rider from Fruitland, took a break from making custom hats to join the caravan.
“They loved it,” Harper said. “We was on ‘Fox & Friends’ the next day.”
With calls for an independent investigation of the Capitol siege blocked by Senate Republicans, Griffin is out on bail and speaking his mind.
He’s an advocate for stricter state voting laws and a die-hard opponent of COVID-19 restrictions who says “hell no” to taking the vaccine.
Griffin still wears a monogrammed Cowboys for Trump shirt to commission meetings. But his allegiance to Trump has wavered.
“I don’t have the same confidence in him,” Griffin said. “Whenever you say, ‘China stole the election. … The election was stolen from me,’ and then you just walk away? That’s hard for me to accept.”
He says his obsession with politics has taken a toll, contributing to his 2019 divorce and tensions with relatives.
“I’ve had my own family say some pretty nasty things,” Griffin said. “It’s been real hard.”
With Trump or without, Griffin still ascribes to unsubstantiated claims of massive 2020 election fraud.
He yearns to someday run for governor even though state GOP leaders are openly scornful and Democrats hold every statewide elected office.
More immediately, Griffin is eyeing an open 2022 sheriff’s race in another New Mexico county where he grew up. His grandfather Wee Griffin held the Catron County post from 1963 to 1966. Trump won there in 2020 with 73% of the vote.
Griffin has cast Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as his political nemesis on issues of gun control, abortion and pandemic restrictions. He’d like to reinvent the sheriff’s role as a brake on the governor’s power.
“The county sheriff’s sole duty and responsibility is to protect our individual rights,” he said. “You think that the governor hates me as a county commissioner — put a gun and a badge on me, and we’ll see.”
Jeff Swanson, chairman of the Otero County Democratic Party, says Griffin’s divisive remarks hinder county efforts to secure state infrastructure spending, and he has engaged in intimidation by recording Cowboys for Trump videos from his office with a shotgun within view.
In Alamogordo, Griffin’s rhetoric on race has steeled the determination of opponents who want him out of office.
Griffin delivered a scathing rebuke last year as the NFL announced game-opening renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem.
“They want to destroy our country,” Griffin said in a video monologue. “I got a better idea. Why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams. … You can play on an old beat-out dirt lot.”
Everette Brown, a Marine veteran and information technology specialist at Holloman Air Force Base who is Black, said that comment shows politics have changed Griffin, whom he once respected.
“I’m a big boy. I can handle a lot. And that was one that got me,” said Brown, part of a committee seeking to recall Griffin.
For now, Griffin has halted the petition with an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which hasn’t decided whether to intervene. Meanwhile, state prosecutors are investigating allegations Griffin used his office in coordination with Cowboys for Trump for personal financial gain, and signed a child-support check to his ex-wife from his Cowboys for Trump account.
Griffin has acknowledged using the county building for promotional videos but said he never claimed they were affiliated with Otero County. He also says Cowboys for Trump is a for-profit company, not a political group.
Donnie Reynolds, a 51-year-old sales associate at an Alamogordo hardware store, says Griffin is being targeted for ties to Trump.
He says Griffin is right about lots of things, like the need for a border wall.
“They’re going find out he didn’t have anything to do with these types of things,” he said. “They’re going to eat some crow.”
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