Empowered by a president who has "taken the handcuffs off of law enforcement," the nation's chief immigration official revealed Tuesday that deportation targets have surged and that he's planning to deploy more agents and resources to "sanctuary cities" to arrest illegal criminals.
Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview that since Trump entered office, illegal border crossings have crashed by almost 70 percent, "an historic low," arrests inside the country have jumped 40 percent and that demands for illegal criminals in local jails has skyrocketed 80 percent.
"You can like President Trump, not like him, like his policies, not like his policies, but one thing no one can argue with is the effect they've had," said Homan, the former chief ICE enforcement boss and a 30-year immigration agency veteran.
He said that the change in immigration enforcement has been radical — and welcome — under Trump. "You'd think everybody would be celebrating these policies," he said during the 45-minute interview in his office.
One group he says are cheering: Border Patrol and ICE agents. "Now they have meaning to their jobs," said Homan. "What this president has done is taken the handcuffs off of law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing immigration laws," he added.
The drop in illegal crossings has given ICE a chance to redirect resources to interior United States and immigrants locked up in jails, illegally working jobs and on the run.
A key target is the 300-plus sanctuary cities and counties that do not cooperate with ICE and ignore requests that they detail criminal illegals for ICE arrest and deportation proceedings.
Homan called sanctuaries "ludicrous," adding, "In the America I grew up in, cities didn't shield people who violated the law."
A New York native who took his first immigration job during the Reagan administration, Homan said that he plans to flood sanctuary cities with agents. He has been OK'd to hire 10,000 new agents and many will help track down illegals in those havens.
"The president recognizes that you've got to have a true interior enforcement strategy to make it uncomfortable for them," he said.
He ripped cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco that refuse to let ICE officers into jails to seize illegal criminals. He explained that it is much safer for ICE targets, police and citizens to make the arrest in jails than on city streets.
What's more, he said that the sanctuary policies create more fear in immigrant communities by forcing ICE agents to hunt down fugitives at their homes or work. "I'm going to arrest him and anybody else with him because there is no population off the table any more. So if you really want to tap down the fear in the immigrant community, I would think the counties would want me in their jails," he said.
Homan testified before Congress recently that under Trump, no illegal immigrant is safe from deportation, though the administration is prioritizing criminals, fugitives, threats to national security and those who illegally reentered the U.S.
"I don't think that there is a magic number that we need to get to," said Homan.
"What I want to get to is a clear understanding from everybody, from the congressmen to the politicians to law enforcement to those who enter the country illegally, that ICE is open for business. We're going to enforce the laws on the books without apology, we'll continue to prioritize what we do. But it's not OK to violate the laws of this country anymore, you're going to be held accountable," he added.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org