The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday defended the agency's decision last week to arrest an illegal immigrant who was on the way to his prom.
ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan was asked at a House Appropriations Committee hearing about Diego Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old who was detained last week. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., asked if it's an ICE policy to target students on the way to school or church.
"If you have a student who's walking to school waiting at a bus stop, you have someone waiting to arrest him?" Lowey asked.
Homan stated that ICE was unaware that it was the day of Manancela's prom, but he defended the actions taken because Manancela had an order of removal. He stated that because Manancela had entered the country illegally and had an outstanding order of removal, he should have been "looking over his shoulder."
"We're talking about somebody who had his due process and lost his case," Homan said. "There'd be no integrity in the system if we didn't uphold the rulings of a judge. This is a country of laws, we need to stand by the laws."
Homan did say that ICE does have policies in place dealing with apprehensions in sensitive locations as churches, schools, hospitals or public demonstrations like parades. Detainments and arrests can only occur at these locations if there are exigent circumstances, other law enforcement actions have led ICE there, or if prior approval has been given from a designated supervisor.
Homan said in response to a question from Lowey that so far this year, there have been no apprehensions at sensitive locations.
"As far I'm concerned, with the information available to me, nobody's been arrested at a school, nobody's been arrested at a hospital," Homan said. "Courthouses have a different policy. Courthouses are a place we should be arresting people."
Homan cited safety features at courthouses, like metal detectors and guards, as a preferable place for ICE to arrest undocumented aliens. But he added that ICE does not arrest witnesses or victims at trials, only "those who pose a public safety risk."
Homan disputed the media coverage surrounding arrests near churches or schools, stating that arrests in major cities usually occur in the vicinity of sensitive locations. Homan said this is a result of communities not allowing ICE to have access to county jails, and plans by illegal aliens to leave their homes infrequently.
"If I can't arrest them in the privacy and security of a jail, then I have to go to their homes or wait for them to leave their homes," Homan said. "It's a target enforcement operation. [ICE] knows who they're going to arrest and where they're going to arrest them. There's no sweeps, there's no neighborhood raids. That's not the way we operate."