President Trump, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, and Acting ICE Director Tom Homan tour the CBP Yuma Air Branch Hanger on Aug. 22, 2017. (Jetta Disco/CBP)

‘Give Them the Wall; It Will Help,’ Argues Former Acting ICE Director Homan

Former Acting ICE Director Tom Homan choked up when he recalled his early days as an officer in the Border Patrol. Once he saw 19 dead illegal migrants in the back of a tractor-trailer in Victoria, Texas. What moved him most, he said, was seeing a dead 5-year-old who suffocated in his father’s arms.

“I get emotional, because I couldn’t help but think and knelt down and said a prayer over that child, because I had a 5-year-old son at the time: What were the last 30 minutes of that child’s life like? What were the last 30 minutes like for his father knowing that he put his son in that position, his child is dying in his arms and he can’t help him?” he said Friday at the Government & Technology Services Coalition’s annual meeting in Arlington, Va. “I didn’t sleep for a week, and it bothers me to this day. I still can’t talk about it. That’s why I say enough’s enough.”

Homan asserts that a crisis exists at the U.S. border with Mexico, and argued that the initial payment being sought by President Trump for a border wall in the shutdown showdown with Congress is not too much.

“The $5 billion will pay for itself in two years. We spend $4 billion a year on detention beds. If we arrested less people, we’d probably knock that to $2 billion. You save money on detention beds, you save money on immigration courts, you save money on the circuit court, you save money on social services,” Homan said. “ICE removed people to 140 different countries last year, mostly Central Americans. There are 140 different countries coming across that border. That’s a crisis. So, I support the president.”

Also on Friday, the day after President Trump spoke with Border Patrol officers in McAllen, Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Sector reported 771 illegal migrant apprehensions, an increase from a daily average of about 400 daily apprehensions.

“Friday’s numbers support the president’s assertion that the current state of the border remains porous,” said Rio Grande Valley Acting Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz. “There is currently not enough infrastructure to adequately address the hundreds of illegals who cross here every night.”

The Democratic majority in Congress contend that President Trump has manufactured the “humanitarian crisis” at the border.

‘Walls Work’

Homan, a 34-year law enforcement veteran who led the department from Jan. 30, 2017, to June 29, 2018, is a Fox News contributor and routinely defends the president’s border policy and decision to shut down the government until Congress and the White House make a deal on the wall appropriation. The partial government shutdown began at midnight on Dec. 22, and affects more than 800,000 federal workers, including Border Patrol and ICE agents who are currently working without pay.

“I supported the president when he shut down the government for the wall… I know it hurts the bottom line of a lot of people, including myself. I’ve got contracts for companies, too, that do business with the government. But we’ve finally got a president who says enough with kicking this can down the road,” Homan said. “I hope the shutdown ends, but I hope it ends with the president getting something for border security.”

SEE: Here’s What President Trump Wants to End the Government Shutdown
READ: 
Here’s How the Government Shutdown Affects U.S. Customs and Border Protection

MORE: Here’s How the Government Shutdown Affects U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Homan is advocating for multiple types of border barriers, as has Trump recently, from 18-foot-tall steel bollard fencing to concrete walls. Some portions of the border do not need a wall, he says, like at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

“[At Big Bend] there are some cliffs. You don’t need a wall there, you don’t need a barrier there,” he said. “…There’s natural barriers that don’t need anything.”

Homan said that while the majority of suspected terrorists coming from outside of the country are nabbed at airports, the border offers one route to anyone hoping to evade detection. “If I’m ISIS and I want to come to this country to do us harm I know I’m not taking an airplane, I know I’m not going to apply for a visa,” he said. “You’re going to use the same illicit pathways that 12 million people successfully used.” 

Investigations Into Migrant Deaths

The tragic deaths of two Guatemalan children last month in Border Patrol custody has incensed congressional Democrats, prompting House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to request Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testify on Trump’s “failed border security agenda.” 

Read: CBP Says Agents Tried to Revive 7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Who Died in Custody
More: CBP to Conduct Secondary Medical Checks on Children After Guatemalan Child Dies Dec. 24

“Before we start putting the blame on them, I say this to congressional Democrats and Republicans: You failed the American people. These children are dead today because you failed to address the loopholes that cause illegal immigration,” Homan said. “It’s not just about enforcing the laws; it’s about saving lives. And when you’ve seen what I’ve seen in my 34 years you’d understand my emotional attachment to this. When I was a Border Patrol agent, I found many dead aliens on trails that were abandoned by smuggling organizations who couldn’t make the trip. Young children, young females. I found many of them. I grew up in a town of 2,500 people. When I joined the Border Patrol I’d seen one dead body my whole life. It was my grandmother in a casket. Now I’m in the Border Patrol, I’m finding dead bodies all the time.” 

Homan said that the two Guatemalan children would not have died if the desolate areas they crossed were protected by a wall, and added that the Border Patrol is not credited for the lives they save. On Jan. 9, for instance, CBP agents saved a Salvadoran national from drowning in the Rio Grande Valley sector, and last month saved the life of a dehydrated migrant in the desolate Falfurrias, Texas, sector.

“Border Patrol saved 4,100 people last year,” Homan said, “in extreme health crises when they were found by the Border Patrol, because they were abandoned by the smugglers that didn’t make the trip, they hadn’t had food and water in days.” 

Zero Tolerance and Family Apprehensions

Homan defended Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy regarding family separations, and said that previous presidential administrations also sanctioned the practice.

It’s not really family separation — it’s zero tolerance. There’s a difference. The press say, oh, they’re tearing the children from their mother’s arms… children have been separated from their parents in the 34 years I’ve been doing this work. Obama did it, Bush did it, Clinton did it, Reagan did it,” Homan said. “If you want to claim asylum through a port of entry you will not be prosecuted, because you have a legal right to claim asylum at a port of entry. If you enter the country illegally, which is a crime in itself… you will be prosecuted, and like everyone in this room knows, if you get prosecuted your child isn’t going to jail with you.”

Homan said that Nielsen’s recent directive ordering all migrants caught illegally entering the country to be removed to Mexico to await their immigration trial date is still in development.

“They are still working out the final details. I think it’s a great idea. That was a huge game-changer,” Homan said. “The families and children are coming across, it’s an open border, they won’t be removed. They’re going to be released. Some of these people are bad people. And what makes it more of a crisis, you talk to Border Patrol chiefs, up to 40 percent of the manpower is tied up taking care of kids, more than 60 percent of all the family members coming across have some sort of respiratory illness.” 

Homan said that current U.S. immigration policies are bankrolling various criminal organizations that kill Border Patrol and ICE agents. According to the CATO Institute, there were 33 CBP agent deaths on duty between 2003 and 2017, and there have been 15 ICE agent deaths since 1954, when the agency was known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 

Walls work. Every place [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] put up a barrier illegal immigration went down, drug smuggling went down,” he said. “The men and women of the Border Patrol want the wall, they deserve the wall. They’re getting killed down there. These men and women wearing the green uniform, they’re down there busting their butt. They’re working more overtime than you can imagine, and they’re getting sick, they’re getting a sickness from the aliens. And they’re doing it without pay. Give them the wall. It will help.” 

Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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