The former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has blasted a Democrat Congressman who accused him of racism, imploring lawmakers to stop grandstanding and change the laws to fix a broken immigration system.
Tom Homan, who stepped down as acting director of ICE last month, delivered the fiery rebuke in testimony before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Friday.
At the hearing, Rep. Jesus Garcia, an Illinois Democrat, asked Homan if he didn’t care about migrant children ‘because the children don’t look like children that are around you.’
‘Have you ever held a deceased child in your arms?’ Garcia asked Homan.
‘First of all, your comments are disgusting,’ Homan replied. ‘And yes I held a five-year-old boy in my arms in the back of that tractor-trailer, and I knelt down beside him said a prayer for him knowing what his last 30 minutes was like. And I had a five-year-old son at the time.’
Homan delivered a fiery defense of border agents during the hearing, defending border agents and ripping a Congressman who accused him of racism
Rep. Jesus Garcia delivered a tirade asking Homan if he didn’t care about migrant children ‘because the children don’t look like children that are around you’
‘For you to sit there and insult my integrity and my love for my country and for children – that’s why this whole thing needs to be fixed. And you’re the member of Congress. Fix it,’ Homan added.
‘I will not sit here and have anybody say that I don’t care about children because they’re not the same color as my children,’ Homan blasted after Chairman Elijah Cummings banged the gavel to restore order.
The hearing was convened to examine allegations of poor and miserable conditions in processing stations for people who cross the border illegally, and a new report on child separations at the border last year.
Homan delivered a fiery defense of border agents during the hearing, arguing that they were enforcing the law as written and charging Congress with fixing broken laws.
‘If you don’t like this, do your job. Fix it,’ Homan said. ‘Those men and women who chose a life of service to this nation deserve better, not only from the media but those in this committee and other members of Congress.’
‘As a 34-year veteran of law enforcement, it is shocking, shocking to see constant attacks against those that leave the safety and security of their homes every day, put on a Kevlar vest and put a gun on their hip and risk their own safety to defend this nation,’ he said, growing visibly emotional at times.
Homan is sworn in for testimony on Friday. He delivered a detailed breakdown of the laws he says need to be changed to fix the crisis at the border
Homan choked up at times as he defended border agents and implored Congress to change laws that he says create a magnet causing soaring illegal border crossings
The hearing came as the number of families, children and other migrants crossing the southern border illegally has surged above 100,000 monthly since March, overwhelming federal agencies’ ability to detain them in sanitary conditions.
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, had reiterated her claim that woman held in a Customs and Border Patrol station had been forced to drink from a toilet.
‘Children were being separated from their parents in front of an American flag. And women being called these names under an American flag,’ said Ocasio-Cortez, emotion rising in her voice. ‘We cannot allow for this.’
Homan blasted back in his testimony: ‘Those that attack the professional integrity of those that serve and blatantly throw unsubstantiated allegations against these men and women with zero evidence of guilt are wrong and should be ashamed.’
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez delivered tear-stained testimony doubling down on her claim that migrant women are forced to drink from ‘toilet bowls’ at processing centers
In his prepared testimony, Homan called on Congress to address loopholes in asylum laws, the Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA).
He said the burden of proof for asylum claims is ‘ridiculously low’ for initial interviews. He added that 90 percent pass their first interview but that of those, 90 percent go on to have their asylum claim rejected by a court.
The Flores Settlement Agreement only allows ICE to detain family groups in a family detention center for 20 days, forcing their release before asylum claims can be processed by courts.
Homan argued that this combination is a powerful draw for people to cross the border illegally, knowing they will be quickly released before the court rules on their asylum claim, as long as they bring children.
Since September, 390,308 family units have been apprehended crossing the southern border illegally, a 469 percent jump from the same period the year prior.
This chart shows apprehensions on the southern border this year (red) versus prior years
Homan also called for the TVPRA to be changed to ensure that all unaccompanied minor children who are not victims of trafficking or persecution are returned home and reunited with their families.
He argued that failing to return unaccompanied migrant children from Central America, as is routine for those from Mexico, is another powerful incentive for parents to send children on the dangerous journey.
Since September, 63,624 unaccompanied children have been apprehended crossing the border illegally, a 70 percent jump from the year prior.
‘The constant talk about open borders, a pathway to citizenship for those already here illegally, free health care, zero detention, sanctuary cities and abolish ICE are all acting to entice those most vulnerable to put themselves in the hands of criminal cartels and risk the journey,’ Homan said.
‘If you truly care about these vulnerable people as you claim, then fix it. You know what needs to be done.’