At a recent event hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies ― an anti-immigrant hate group founded by a eugenicist and white nationalist ― Thomas Homan, the outgoing acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (and Donald Trump’s chief family destroyer), told a crowded room that the men and women of ICE are not racist and that they deserve thanks from this country.
Does a federal agent ― a person sworn to serve and protect this nation and its citizens ― deserve thanks for harassing U.S. citizens outside courthouses because they look like an immigrant the agency aggressively targets? Perhaps U.S. children should write you personal thank-you notes for deporting their parents. Surely, this is the kind of acknowledgment and recognition that your agents crave so they can refuel their inhumane and destructive practices.
They say that truth hurts, but here’s the truth about the 20,000 “patriots” who work for ICE and why they are not the heroes Trump and Homan always paint them to be.
Just a couple of days ago, ICE helicopters hovered over a plant nursery in rural Ohio, where agents pointed automatic weapons at dozens of migrant workers at the site. The media is calling this the largest workplace raid under the Trump administration ― and with good reason, as the volume and ferocity used by ICE in this particular operation is unprecedented in recent history. I mean, it took an undercover ICE agent to lure migrant workers with doughnuts to a central office so the operation could proceed.
The media is still buzzing with details about the raid and what it will mean for the spouses and children of the 114 workers who were apprehended by this raid, but the core strategy behind this ICE strategy is clear ― to perpetuate Trump’s message that those apprehended are “animals” and “criminals,” not hardworking, aspiring Americans working to benefit their state, community and families.
Was the Ohio operation an overwhelming use of force and expenditure of taxpayer dollars? Absolutely. And it’s probably a test balloon for bigger workplace raids, in which ICE agents will showcase more egregious and inhumane practices. All of this in the name of dehumanizing people and terrorizing communities to push political agendas ― not sensible solutions to our nation’s broken immigration system.
At the local level, ICE continually demonstrates its willingness to go above and beyond to nab undocumented immigrants. U.S. military police detained a pizza delivery man after he attempted to deliver food to a military base in Brooklyn, New York. It didn’t matter that Pablo Villavicencio presented a legal municipal ID, that he had a pending green card petition or that he is the father of two young U.S. citizen children. The Army kept the pizza and handed Villavicencio over to ICE. He is expected to be deported to Ecuador next week.
Homan would rather deport Dreamers and young professionals like me than push Congress to address our plight so the U.S. can benefit from our talents.
Not extreme enough? Then consider the case of a Washington state Dreamer who had to sue the federal government to get his DACA benefits reinstated. The court ruled in his favor, stating that the government had lied to try to get him deported.
How about the case of a man in Oregon who was arrested by plainclothes ICE agents. The agents entered his home without a warrant and proceeded to question him about his immigration status. After public outcry and pressure from members of Congress, the man was released pending an internal investigation from ICE.
And the Oregon case was not an isolated incident. A woman filmed ICE agents in police-branded gear breaking into her home, scoffing at her request for a warrant by telling her that she “watched too many films” and insisting that a warrant would be brandished once they “were done” with their operation.
Homan wants the public to believe his agency is not separating families. That’s a lie. In fact, I personally walked an Ohio man to a Transportation Security Agency check-in at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport so he could board the flight that would deport him back to Mexico. Jesus Lara was his name, and I’ll never forget how his crying children waved him a final goodbye before he surrendered to an ICE agent and disappeared in a crowd.
It’s obvious nothing gives Homan more joy than directing his agency to indiscriminately deport any undocumented immigrant they come across ― regardless of the resources it costs or whether the immigrant is a threat to the general public ― so he can appear on Fox News and on panels hosted by hate groups to blame the media and liberals for distorting the truth.
“If you think ICE is racist, is Congress racist because they enacted these laws?” Homan asked the audience before concluding his appearance at the Center for Immigration Studies forum earlier this week. Truthfully, the answer is up for debate. If Homan were actually bothered by any of these outcomes, he would use his position to actually propose policy changes.
Homan can complain and protest all he wants, but the cruel, pointless mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers like me, says all we need to know about his and his agency’s character.
Juan Escalante is a HuffPost columnist. A nationally recognized immigrant rights advocate, he is a beneficiary of President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Follow him on Twitter at @JuanSaaa.