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Trump Administration Redefines Immigration “Priorities” to Mean Everyone is at Risk

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Homan says what we all know: everyone is fair game for deportation; removals of non-criminals are up because we’ve gone “from zero to 100”

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan testified about budget priorities in front of the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, and confirmed what advocates and deportation statistics have already shown. The Trump Administration is deporting everyone – not just immigrants who have committed crimes, not just immigrants who have prior deportation orders, but everyone undocumented that they can get their hands on*.

Homan made it clear that he does not believe in protections for anyone who is undocumented in the US, regardless of record, equities, or circumstance. If you are in the country without papers, he said, “you should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder, you need to be worried.” It’s an extremist point of view: Homan thinks it’s important for all immigrants to know that they may be deported at any time, in order to deter future undocumented immigration.

Prioritizing everyone means prioritizing no one

This deportation free-for-all, however, contradicts something that Homan and his boss,  DHS Secretary John Kelly, repeatedly claim: that DHS and ICE are still prioritizing criminals and threats to national security. But as this exchange between Homan and Rep. David Price (D-NC) shows, it’s not possible to have it both ways:

HOMAN: We prioritize criminals and security threats first. Then we look at fugitives, those who entered the country illegally and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge…they’re a priority, and they weren’t a priority in past administrations. Also those who had been ordered removed, were removed, and reentered the United States, they’re also priorities.

We’re not out during immigration sweeps or raids, but if we find someone here illegally, we’re going to put them in front of an immigration judge. [This contradicts John Kelly‘s claim that immigrants who have never been on ICE’s radar before, who don’t have prior orders of deportation, are not in danger of removal.]

There has been a significant increase in non-criminal arrests because in the past administration, we weren’t allowed to arrest them. You see a moderate uptick in criminals because we were [previously] arresting criminals. But you see more of an uptick in non-criminals because we’re going from zero to 100 under the new Administration.

PRICE: But by that standard, you’re talking about everyone in this country without papers. What is this prioritization of people who have committed serious crimes? Does it mean anything?

HOMAN: We still prioritize criminal and national security threats. But no population is off the table.

PRICE: It seems to me you’re saying both things here, that yes, we’re prioritizing those dangerous folks, but by the way we’re also going after everybody … You seem to be suggesting that there’s almost an indiscriminate danger posed by the entire immigrant population. For every dollar that’s diverted toward that larger population, you’re talking about a dollar that’s not spent going after dangerous people.

Price has it right. If there’s a police officer on a highway, it’s not possible for him to go after the worst speeding offenders if he’s also stopping those going a mile or two above the speed limit. Furthermore, when immigrants become afraid of deportation, they become afraid to talk to the police or cooperate with investigations relating to serious crime. Contrary to what Homan, Donald Trump, and John Kelly say, DHS and ICE cannot make criminals their priority if they’re also going after everyone else.

Homan’s incoherence on sanctuary cities

Deportation prioritizations wasn’t the only topic where Homan’s argument was untenable. On so-called “sanctuary cities”, he criticized jurisdictions for not cooperating with ICE detainers, even as he acknowledged that ICE detainers lead to the removals of people who have not committed serious crimes.

Here he is complaining about cities and counties that refuse to work with ICE:

If I had access to county jails, if people honored my detainers, I could arrest people in the safety and security of a county jail. Since I can’t, I have to go to the neighborhoods. That’s what puts fear in the immigrant community, is my officers knocking on doors in their neighborhoods. If I had access to county jails … I wouldn’t have to go to the home, where I’m probably going to find other people here illegally, that I’m going to take into custody. [By the way] I don’t think those communities want child molesters or someone who’s been arrested 6 times around.

Slightly later on in the hearing, Homan says pretty frankly that people don’t need to have committed a crime to be held and taken away on an ICE detainer:

HOMAN: If you’re asking me, are we going to put detainers on people who have not been convicted of a crime? Yes, we will….

I take a [broad] definition of sanctuary cities. They can share information with us, but unless they’re willing to turn these people over to us, I call that not cooperating.

PRICE: Who are those people? What is the universe we’re talking about here?

HOMAN: Everybody. Criminals, aliens, and non-criminals.

Homan either doesn’t care about the contradiction here, or he’s never seriously thought about his position and why advocates and immigrants adamantly oppose it. On the one hand, he’s threatening immigrant families, saying that it’s jurisdictions’ fault that he has to arrest people in their homes and around their communities because he doesn’t have access to jails. On the other, he’s acknowledging that innocent people get deported as a result of ICE detainers. As with deportation priorities, he can’t have it both ways. 


* Except maybe Dreamers, for now.