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Thomas Homan, the acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, plans to step down and is expected to leave his position in June, the Wall Street Journal reports. Since taking over ICE last year, Homan has become the face of Trump’s immigration crackdown and made headlines for saying that all undocumented immigrants “should be uncomfortable.”
Last January, Homan retired as the head of ICE’s detention and deportation division. As he was leaving his retirement ceremony, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called to ask him to take over the agency, a 20,000-person division of the Department of Homeland Security that deports more than 200,000 people per year. Homan returned to work the next week as ICE’s acting director.
Kelly and Homan had an immediate impact on immigration enforcement and have created widespread fear among immigrants. In 2017, ICE arrests increased by 41 percent, while arrests of people without criminal records nearly tripled, from 17,000 to 46,000.
President Donald Trump nominated Homan to be ICE’s permanent director in November. Mother Jones reported earlier this month that the Senate Homeland Security Committee had still not received the biographical information needed to advance his nomination. Last week, 17 Democratic senators called on DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to provide the missing documents.
“We understand that the Trump Administration may be concerned about Mr. Homan answering questions under oath about his leadership of ICE, as well as the possibility that Mr. Homan’s nomination could be defeated in the Senate,” the senators wrote. “However, the Senate is an independent branch of government and has a responsibility under the Constitution to provide its advice and consent on this nomination.” Homan decided to step aside to avoid what would have been a contentious confirmation process, according to a source interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Another source said family considerations played an important role.
Alonzo Peña, who served as ICE’s deputy director during the Obama administration, told Mother Jones in February that Homan’s combative approach might have been influenced by future job prospects:
Immigration enforcement, he says, “has become very profitable for some people” in the private detention business. He adds, “There certainly would be a look by some of these companies that are making huge profits at somebody like Tom when he retires.” Daniel Ragsdale, who preceded Homan as acting ICE director, now works for GEO Group, America’s second-largest private prison and detention company. In response to a question about a possible future for Homan in the detention industry, Liz Johnson, an ICE spokeswoman, says Homan “chose to pass up an opportunity in the private sector in order to continue serving his country at the request of the president of the United States.”
During the Obama administration, Homan was seen as a loyal civil servant who was willing to compromise. Some of his former colleagues have been shocked by his rhetoric under Trump, including his decision to call for criminal charges against politicians who limit cooperation with his officers. Cecilia Muñoz, who ran the White House Domestic Policy Council under Barack Obama and worked closely with Homan, said, “I find the Tom Homan that I see on TV now unrecognizable compared to the one that I saw in the Situation Room.”
Others were less surprised. “Tom doesn’t do nuance,” one former DHS official said. “Tom is brute force.”
Read Mother Jones’s full profile of Homan here.