WASHINGTON >> Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said today that he would retire from the deportation agency in June, after more than a year of pushing President Donald Trump’s controversial plans to remove thousands of unauthorized immigrants from the United States.
“It has been the honor of my life to lead the men and women of ICE for more than a year,” Homan said in a statement. “The decision to leave federal service after more than 34 years is bittersweet, but my family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to serve and it’s time for me to focus on them.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported Homan’s decision to resign.
Homan, a holdover from the Obama administration, was nominated to head ICE by Trump and became one of the president’s most vocal surrogates against illegal immigration. His critics, including immigration rights groups and congressional Democrats, said Homan brought an aggressiveness to immigration policy that even some Republicans said went too far, including targeting people whose deportation was not a priority during the Obama administration.
At a congressional hearing late last year, Homan said all unauthorized migrants should be scared of being deported. This year, he doubled down on those statements.
“I’ll never back down on those words,” Homan said at a border security conference in San Antonio in January. “If you violate the laws of this country, if you enter illegally ― which is a crime ― it’s not going to be OK anymore.”
Homan has also called for the Justice Department to prosecute elected officials in sanctuary cities who do not help ICE round up immigrants.
One ICE official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Homan initially planned to retire in January 2017. At the time, he had been serving as the agency’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations. But at the start of the Trump administration, Homan agreed to remain as acting director and was nominated to keep that job.
But his nomination has been stalled in the Senate. Other people familiar with Homan’s decision to resign said he did not want to undergo the expected partisan grilling by Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee during a confirmation hearing.
Two Democratic committee members, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, have been harsh critics of ICE under Homan’s leadership. Both are considered potential presidential candidates in 2020, and have been critical of Homan’s statements against immigrants in the U.S. illegally and his calls for legal action against local politicians who oppose the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Homan has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He was a police officer in New York, a U.S. Border Patrol agent and a special agent with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, the agency that preceded ICE.