Former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tom Homan
said Arizona is the next "ground zero" for illegal immigration and
fentanyl trafficking at a press conference in Phoenix on Jan. 26, 2023.
(Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
Tom Homan, former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times, described the crisis at the United States’ southern border as “the largest homeland security intelligence failure since 9/11,” adding that the problem will only exacerbate with the lifting of Title 42 on May 11.
The ending of Title 42, a COVID-19 pandemic-era policy implemented by the Trump administration allowing officials to quickly expel illegal immigrants, is going to cause an increase in border crossings, Homan said, adding that the Biden administration is already “releasing pretty much everybody as it is.”
“What’s happening to the southern border right now, in my opinion, after doing this for 35 years, is the largest homeland security intelligence failure since 9/11,” Homan said. “This is a huge national security failure.”
A native of West Carthage, New York, Homan served as a police officer in his hometown and became a Border Patrol agent in 1984, before rising to become head of ICE three decades later during the Trump administration.
As head of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, Homan received the 2015 Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service, the country’s highest civil service award. In June 2018, the month that he retired from ICE, Homan received the Distinguished Service Medal from Trump, and in January 2021 was awarded the National Security Medal.
Homan, who served as head of ICE from 2017 to 2018, said that during the Biden administration “we know that known and suspected terrorists have crossed the border and weren’t apprehended.”
“Over 1.4 million known gotaways” have crossed the border illegally since [President Joe] Biden took office, Homan said.
“This is just known gotaways … How many people have been across the border that we don’t know about because they weren’t captured on a drone or a sensor or a camera? So, if we know 1.4 [million gotaways], that number’s probably double or triple.”
Homan added that some illegal immigrants arrested during the Biden administration are from countries that sponsor terrorism.
“They’ve already arrested over 170 people from the terrorist watchlist. That’s who they’ve arrested,” Homan said. “If you don’t think a single one out of that 1.4 million plus the unknowns [is a known or suspected terrorist], then you’re ignorant of the data.”
Of the unknown number of illegal immigrants who have unlawfully entered the United States, “a large percentage are carrying fentanyl, a large percentage of them are criminals and gang members. And believe me, a large percentage of them are going to be known and suspected terrorists,” he said.
Morale at ‘All-Time Low’
Homan described morale at ICE and Border Patrol as being “at an all-time low.”
“There is no morale,” Homan stated, referring to agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “I talk to hundreds of ICE agents and Border Patrol agents every month, and it’s just, the morale is nonexistent, and TSA [Transportation Security Administration] is the same thing. They need leadership. They don’t have leadership.”
“Frankly, I’m proud that the men and women [of the Border Patrol] come to work every day, strap a gun to their hip, and go out and they do the best they can, knowing that they can’t enforce the laws they’re supposed to enforce, they can’t uphold the oath they took when they became a Border Patrol agent. The same with ICE agents,” Homan said.
“Two years of historic illegal immigration crisis on the border, [and] ICE has the lowest number of removals in the history of the agency. That just doesn’t make sense. And the reason is because ICE is not allowed to arrest hardly anybody,” he added.
ICE carried out a record low 59,011 removals during its 2021 fiscal year, with the previous low occurring in fiscal year 2004, when there were 175,106 removals. ICE carried out 72,177 removals in fiscal year 2022, still much lower than the number of deportations carried out annually during the Trump administration. ICE completed 185,884 removals of illegal aliens in fiscal year 2020, 267,258 in fiscal year 2019, and 256,085 in fiscal year 2018.
Homan cited DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s guidelines (pdf), issued in 2021, stating that an immigrant being in the United States illegally is not enough on its own to detain and deport them as a key reason for the low number of removals.
The former ICE head described what he thinks it takes to improve morale within DHS agencies.
“What it’s going to take to turn this thing around is to have a [DHS] secretary and a president that doesn’t abandon you. That lets you do the job you’re supposed to do, enforce the laws that Congress enacted, and take the handcuffs off the officers and put them on the bad guys. Let them do their job,” Homan said.
Illegal Immigrants from China
Homan said he was concerned with the record number of illegal immigrants from China crossing the border.
“The Chinese are concerning because, again, they’re a country that we have a huge issue with, not just because of COVID, but for national security reasons. And what concerns me more than the Chinese coming across and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol are the Chinese that are trying to get away.”
He explained that illegal immigrants pay cartels a certain amount to get across the border and turn themselves in, but pay much more if they want to enter the United States without being detained and make it to a city like New York or Chicago.
“Why would someone pay more money to get away? You’ve got to ask yourself that question,” Homan said. “Why would you not pay a lesser amount, turn yourself in to the Border Patrol, be processed, be released, be flown to the city of your choice at government expense, get a work authorization while your case is pending—you actually get a job—and hang out for five to six years until your hearing.”
Homan added that even if a hearing is not favorable for an illegal immigrant, “no one’s looking to remove you because the Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, has said being in the country illegally, on its own, is not enough to make an arrest.”
“Why would you not take that benefit, take advantage of all that giveaway? Who wouldn’t do that?” Homan asked. “People who don’t want to be vetted, people who don’t want to be fingerprinted. These are people who get away.”
“People need to understand that the Chinese that get away, that should be a huge national security concern because they obviously didn’t want themselves to be cleared, vetted, fingerprinted,” he added.
Homan noted that illegal immigrants from China are not the only source of heightened national security concern, adding that illegal immigrants from North Korea, Iran, and Syria have also entered the United States.
Holding China Accountable
In addition to being a source of illegal immigration into the United States, China is “poisoning the country” with fentanyl, Homan said, arguing that the administration is not doing enough to counter this.
“We had 106,000 overdose deaths, most of them fentanyl,” Homan said, citing an annual figure from November 2020 to November 2021. “China produces the precursors [for fentanyl production], they supply them to the cartels in Mexico. They know what’s going on.”
“More Americans have died from fentanyl overdoses than were killed by any terrorism attack, including 9/11.”
“So we designate terrorists, we went to war with terrorism, but we’ll let China kill over 100,000 Americans and nothing’s being done about it,” Homan said. “Joe Biden isn’t holding China accountable.”
In April, the Biden administration announced a “strengthened whole-of-government” approach to crack down on illicit fentanyl supply chains, including efforts to “disrupt the illicit synthetic drug trade” with international partners and strengthen “coordination and information-sharing among U.S. intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies.”
The Department of Justice has also announced criminal charges against dozens of defendants for alleged involvement in fentanyl production, and the Treasury Department sanctioned two entities in China and five individuals in China and Guatemala “for supplying precursor chemicals to drug cartels in Mexico for the production of illicit fentanyl intended for U.S. markets.”
Homan also said that Mexico is not being held accountable by the Biden administration for the flow of fentanyl and other illegal drugs into the United States.
“What accountability have we forced on Mexico or China?” Homan asked.
Homan said that Biden has the ability to shut down ports of entry, impose additional tariffs on Mexico and China, and compel Mexico to place military personnel on its borders to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States.
The Epoch Times has contacted the White House and DHS for comment.