Immigrant rights advocates are denouncing an "appalling and disqualifying" proposal by the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to charge with federal crimes elected officials who lead sanctuary cities, which often refuse to turn over or identify undocumented residents to the government's immigration agents.
The ACLU said Wednesday that acting director Thomas Homan's "outrageous threat" to bring charges against local politicians who enact and carry out sanctuary city policies "should disqualify [him] from consideration for the permanent ICE director post."
Thomas Homan, acting director of @ICEgov, wants to put state and local elected representatives in jail for not carrying out Trump's deportation agenda.
This outrageous threat should disqualify Homan from consideration for the permanent ICE director post. https://t.co/In1lfAgALb
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 3, 2018
After California made history earlier this week when it became the nation's first-ever sanctuary state, Homan responded in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday by warning that "California better hold on tight" and vowing to "vastly increase our enforcement footprint" by upping the number of ICE officers in the state.
"There's no sanctuary from federal law enforcement," he said. "For these sanctuary cities that knowingly shield and harbor an illegal alien in their jail and don't allow us access, that is, in my opinion, a violation of 8 U.S. Code § 1324."
Homan revealed that he is currently working with the Department of Justice to look into whether the federal government can "charge some of these sanctuary cities with violating federal law" and "hold these politicians personally accountable."
California's newly enacted state-wide law "bars law enforcement officers in the state from arresting individuals based on civil immigration warrants, asking about a person's immigration status, or participating in any joint task force with federal officials for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws," according to SF Gate.
Although Homan—who has worked at ICE for three decades and is known for supporting anti-immigration policies—touted the Trump administration's favored narrative that sanctuary city policies endanger the public as well as federal officers, the Los Angeles Times notes that "research has shown sanctuary cities have lower crime rates and that immigrants generally commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens."
President Donald Trump appointed Homan to serve as acting director shortly after entering office last January. Though Trump announced in November that the acting director was his official pick to permanently lead ICE, Homan is still awaiting final approval by the Senate.
Immigrant rights advocates denounced Homan's comments as "illegal intimidation" and further evidence that he should not be allowed to stay on as ICE's permanent director:
Appalling & disqualifying. Frightening considering the law enforcement power of the agency he leads. I trust that he will never be considered as the permanent ICE director. https://t.co/44ThcB6irg
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) January 3, 2018
Outrageous threat by ICE director to prosecute state/local officials carrying out sanctuary policies. US courts have repeatedly held feds can't force states/localities to do Trump's bidding on draconian deportation tactics. This is illegal intimidation. https://t.co/gX9Zfo8PEy
— Cecillia Wang (@WangCecillia) January 3, 2018