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If you think ICE is racist, blame Congress, says agency's director

His appearance at a hard-line, anti-immigrant think tank's event is another example of the coziness between the so-called nativist lobby and the Administration.

by Tess Owen
Jun 5 2018, 4:45pm

ICE director Thomas Homan has a message for his haters: Don’t blame us; blame Congress.

“If you think ICE is racist, is Congress racist? Because they enacted these laws,” Homan said Tuesday morning at a televised sit-down in D.C. with the policy director at Center for Immigration Studies, a hard-line, once-fringe anti-immigrant think tank. His agency has been criticized by civil rights groups and Democrats for its aggressive immigration enforcement tactics.

“A lot of people want to attack ICE. They want to call us racist, they want to call us Nazis,” said Homan, who’s retiring this month. “We’re simply enforcing the laws on the book. We enforce laws that may be unpopular among some people. How about instead of protesting outside ICE, maybe you oughta be up on the Hill, talking to Congressmen about the law.”

Homan’s been a fierce defender of the Trump administration’s immigration policy since he became acting director about a year ago, and his appearance Tuesday comes as the Administration battles intense scrutiny over its policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the border. On Tuesday, the United Nations weighed in, saying “the practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

Homan defended the policy, while adding that he feels ICE is being unfairly blamed for it.

“ICE isn’t separating families. It’s happening on Border Patrol,” Homan said. “I transport children to an HHS [Health and Human Services] facility. That’s my job. We’re doing what we’re congressionally mandated to do. I’m not throwing CBP under the bus; I support it.”

He might have been feeling especially defensive as he’d just received a letter earlier Tuesday from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley criticizing him for doing an event hosted by Center for Immigration Studies, which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center on account of publishing articles by white nationalists and putting out misleading information about immigrants (the organization rejects that label).

READ: Trump picked an anti-immigrant hard-liner to protect refugees

“Lending legitimacy to a hate group and splitting children from families does not in any way protect national security and public safety, nor does it demonstrate the integrity and fairness that is expected of a federal agency,” Crowley wrote. “Instead, it fosters an environment in which extremist viewpoints come to be seen as acceptable and justified by the highest levels of your agency.

“Speaking to a group like this is disqualifying for a federal official entrusted with acting in the best interests of the general public,” he added.

The letter was obviously on Homan’s mind.

“They call the [Center for Immigration Studies] racist?” said Homan. “I’d like to know: Did Rep. Crowley send a similar letter to his fellow congresswoman Yvette Clarke in New York when she stood in front of the ICE building and called us the Gestapo, the Nazis, the most prolific hate group in the history of the world. Did he do that?”

Homan has worked in immigration enforcement for 34 years, under six administrations. But in President Donald Trump, he finally has a boss who shares his views.

“You can not like or love this president. But no president – and I respect every president I work for – no president has done more for border safety and public safety than this president,” Homan said.

His participation in the Center for Immigration Studies event is yet another example of the coziness between the so-called nativist lobby and the Trump Administration.

The Center for Immigration Studies, and its ideological affiliates such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA, were once fringe organizations whose views were considered too hard-line and extreme among most Conservatives. But even those groups agree that they’re enjoying an unprecedented level of symbiosis with the federal government when it comes to immigration policy.

READ: A radical anti-immigration group infiltrated the GOP. Now it's in the White House.

Just two weeks ago, Trump nominated Ronald Mortensen, an alumnae of the Center for Immigration Studies, to a key position at the State Department where he would be responsible for the care of refugees.

Meanwhile, Jon Feere, a former legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies has served as senior adviser to Homan since January 2017. Julie Kirchner, former executive director of Federation for American Immigration Reform (known as “FAIR”), is serving as ombudsman at the United States Customs and Immigration Services. And Robert Law recently left his position as lobbying director at FAIR to take a job as senior policy advisor at USCIS.

It isn’t clear who will replace Homan: He told the audience Tuesday that the Trump administration had not yet identified his successor.

Cover image: Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan is interviewed on the "Fox and Friends" television program, in New York Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)