In a blunt warning to all 11 million undocumented immigrants, the acting chief of ICE said that anybody who cross the border illegally is subject to deportation.
"If you are in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried," said Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"No population is off the table," he added in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. "We'll issue detainers to anybody in the country illegally," he said. "Our priorities are criminals first, but if you're asking me if we are going to put detainers on people that have not been convicted of a crime, yes we will," he added referring to the first step in deportation.
He confirmed that while the administration has prioritized the deportations of criminal illegals -- those who have committed crimes once in the U.S. -- he said non-criminal arrests are also up.
The reason: "We weren't allowed to arrest them in the past administration."
He said arresting any illegal is a good thing because "most of the criminal aliens we find in interior United States, they entered as a non criminal. If we wait for them to violate yet another law against the citizens of this country, it's late. We shouldn't wait."
President Trump's tough anti-illegal rhetoric has helped to cut the number of illegal crossings and Homan said it is time to reinforce that message with a warning that all illegal immigrants will be subject to deportation.
"We can't send a message, get by the Border Patrol and get into the interior [of the U.S.] as long as you don't go and break another law you're home free, then you're never going to gain control of the border," he said.
While his warning was strong, he said, that "We're not out doing sweeps" of non-criminal illegals.
Homan also pleaded with Congress to shut down so-called "sanctuary cities" which harbor criminal illegals. "Sancutary cities are a danger to the men and women of ICE," he said.
Despite facing critical questions from Democrats, Homan said that all ICE is doing is following the law and sending the message to immigrants to enter properly and legally.
"We are all blessed to live in the greatest country on earth and I can't blame anybody who wants to live here," he said, adding, "But we are also a country built on the foundation of the rule of law. Those who choose to enter this country illegally which is a crime, a federal crime, or to overstay their visa have knowingly chosen to break the law. Meanwhile, millions of people who have become permanent members of our society through our generous legal channels, they have shown their respect for the rule of law and for the American people."
And, he explained, after illegals go through the long process to fight deportation, at a high cost to taxpayers, it is up to ICE to enforce a federal judge's removal order if one comes.
"If a federal judge's decision is not enforced then there's absolutely no integrity in this entire system. If you love this country you must respect its laws or respect those that keep you safe. ICE officers do not do what they do because they hate what's standing in front of them. They do what they do because they love what is behind them," he said.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org