As demonstrators across the nation prepared to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy this week, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had some advice for those seeking to blame his agency for the results.
More than 700 protests were planned for Saturday after weeks of mounting backlash over a policy that resulted in family separations and reports of children being temporarily housed in what critics have described as cages.
In recent days, ICE has been the target of increasing opposition by demonstrators and even some elected officials.
As a protest movement to “Abolish ICE” has gained some traction in recent days, two prominent New York politicians, both Democrats, have endorsed the effort.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in an interview on Thursday that she believed the agency “has become a deportation force,” adding that “you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a pithier take in a radio interview the following morning.
“We should abolish ICE,” he said.
Tom Homan, the agency’s acting director, defended the agency against such protests and suggested those calling for its dissolution are misplacing their anger.
“They need to educate themselves,” he said in a Fox News interview on Friday. “I mean this protest yesterday to protest about family separations on the border, ICE doesn’t separate families on the border. That’s the Border Patrol. We’re a different agency.”
Though he said critics of ICE “need to get their facts straight” about the two federal agencies, he noted that the U.S. Border Patrol is not to blame for the controversial practice either.
“If the American public wants to know who to blame for family separations, the first people they need to blame is Congress,” Homan said. “We went up the Hill several months ago and told them what the loopholes were.”
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He took specific aim at Gillibrand for her statements about the agency.
“She needs to study the issue too because she went to a protest on family separation on the border and she tries to blame ICE for it — ICE separated families,” he said. “First of all, she’s got to get her facts straight.”
Homan also saved some indignation for other elected officials who have been similarly critical of ICE and other agencies working to secure the border.
“I’m insulted at a lot of the Democratic senators and congressmen that want to vilify the men and women that put their lives on the line every day for this country,” he said.
Though Homan is in the process of retirement, he pledged to continue working on behalf of those enforcing America’s border laws amid ongoing attacks by protesters.
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