National Security

The ICE Man Cometh

“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.” 

With a president who means what he says and an attorney general to make sure it happens, Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is about to get busy. Deportation targets have surged, and he’s planning to deploy more agents and resources to “sanctuary cities” to arrest illegal criminals.

Homan said in an interview that since Trump entered office, illegal border crossings have crashed by almost 70 percent—”a historic low”—arrests inside the country have jumped 40 percent, and demands for illegal criminals in local jails have 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 a 45-minute interview in his office.

Border Patrol and ICE agents are cheering the new focus on their mission, and morale is at an all-time high. “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 significant downturn in the number of illegal border crossers between the US and Mexico is “nothing short of miraculous,” said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd. “There’s a vibe, there’s energy in the Border Patrol that’s never been there before in 20 years that I’ve been in the patrol,” Judd added.

The drop in illegal crossings has given ICE a chance to redirect resources to the interior United States and immigrants locked up in jails, illegally working jobs, and on the run. That mission has been hampered somewhat by the continuing stand by some jurisdictions to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration.

To combat that issue, ICE and the administration have made a key target of 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. Earlier this year, the state of Texas passed legislation to make refusal to cooperate fully with immigration by law enforcement officials a criminal offense. That coupled with the forfeit of millions of dollars of State Law Enforcement grants and funding brought extreme pressure on those officials that were taking the “sanctuary city” stance.

Most notably in Texas was the newly elected Travis County sheriff, Sally Hernandez. Hernandez took a very public stand against cooperating with ICE. Her commitment to make Travis County a “sanctuary county” was part of her platform she ran on. The 2016 race for Travis County sheriff focused on the city’s “sanctuary status.” Hernandez promised, “I will change the current ICE policy to reflect our county’s progressive values and will prioritize the safety of all.”

Hernandez made good on that promise, and The Department of Homeland Security report detailed 206 federal immigration detainers that local entities denied from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. Travis County declined 142 requests to hold unauthorized immigrants, or about 69 percent nationwide.

After Governor Gregg Abbott had signed SB4 into law, Sheriff Hernandez stated she would follow the state law even if she didn’t agree with it. “I will not violate the law,” Hernandez said.

Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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