Stealth attack on ICE: Left seeks abolition by other means, ex-agency boss warns

"They are abolishing ICE's mission, making the agency ineffective," said Tom Homan.

Updated: July 29, 2022 - 11:01am

Progressives may have not technically gotten their wish to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, but their efforts are making it increasingly difficult for agents to enforce the law, according to a former head of the government agency.

"They are abolishing ICE's mission, making the agency ineffective," said former acting ICE Director Tom Homan in an interview with Just the News. "ICE's morale is in the toilet."

The job of ICE is to execute orders by judges and detain or move migrants accordingly, continued Homan, who's currently a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. However, he added, "the progressive left wants [illegal immigrants] to stay [in the U.S.] and for there to be no more ICE."

While formally abolishing ICE is not in the cards right now, budgetary issues are hurting the agency's ability to fulfill its mission — in part due to those who wish to see ICE's demise, Homan argues.

"Congress almost never funds ICE enough as it should, and a Democrat-led Congress is always trying to decrease funding for ICE's detention resources," said Homan.

His comments came after Axios reported ICE will run out of money before October unless the Department of Homeland Security pulls millions of dollars from other programs. The current budget shortfall is severe — an estimated $345 million — and comes as ICE is poised to spend more taxpayer money than ever.

Homan said DHS will reprogram money to keep the agency's "head above water" but expressed frustration at how things got to this point.

"ICE is funded to have 34,000 beds, but they currently have about 24,00-25,000 people in custody," he explained. "You would think they would have a lot of money left over, but ultimately this is just an attempt to justify cutting ICE's budget even more next year and getting rid of ICE detention."

The Biden administration's budget proposal for next year cuts funding for detention beds down to 25,000, despite an ongoing and historic surge in illegal border crossings.

ICE detention beds run around $130 and are the highest-cost items in the ICE budget, along with medical care.

The second highest cost is transportation, which Homan says is a major reason for ICE's budgetary issues.

"They are burning hot on this account because they are not only transporting aliens around the country by plane, as usual, and removing some, but they are transporting illegal aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol around the country so they can be processed in other locations," said Homan. "This is something they have not budgeted for."

Homan argued transportation costs are up because the Biden administration isn't deporting illegal migrants in an efficient manner but rather taking them to various locations, where they may or may not appear for immigration court proceedings.

"If they enforced law and employed expedited removal, we wouldn't have so many of these flights in the U.S.," he said.

However, added Homan, there is an intentional effort by political leaders not to enforce immigration law, spurred by progressives calling to abolish ICE for its role in deporting illegal immigrants.

"If you don't like ICE, then change the law," said Homan. "They just enforce the law."

When illegal immigrants aren't detained, there's a very low chance they leave the U.S.

Over the years 2014-2019, migrants who were initially placed in detention but then released prior to a "final enforcement outcome" were repatriated just 3% of the time," according to a 2020 DHS report.

Over the same period, meanwhile, migrants who remained in DHS custody continuously since their initial encounter with authorities were repatriated 98% of the time, while just 1% of such encounters resulted in "unexecuted removal orders.

Those who were never detained following their initial encounters were repatriated 30% of the time, according to the report.

Adding to the problem, ICE deportations of illegal immigrants plunged to their lowest level in nearly three decades last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. There were about 59,000 total deportations, the majority of which occurred in the final four months of the Trump administration.

In other words, fewer illegal immigrants are currently being detained or deported.

"This isn't mismanagement," said Homan. "This is by design."

Since President Biden entered office, there's been a sharp rise in the number of people who've crossed the southern border illegally. The figure reached about 2.4 million illegal border crossings from May of last year to this past May, the last month for which there's publicly available data and the month with the highest number of migrant encounters during the Biden administration at 239,416.

By comparison, there were just over 626,000 such crossings from January 2020 to January 2021, former President Trump's last year in office.

Homan explained that when an overwhelming number of illegal immigrants are entering the country, large numbers of border agents — often about half and up to 70% on duty at any given time — have to be pulled off the line to process, care for, and transfer them, leaving huge gaps for cartels and smugglers to exploit.

"Cartels have operational control of the border," said Homan, who noted that when some 15,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, came to the border town of Del Rio, Texas last year, over 200 miles of the border was left unguarded for days as border agents were redirected to Del Rio. "Don't think the cartels didn't have a field day."

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. during the 12-month period ending April 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a record high, up 28.5% from the same period a year earlier. More than three-quarters of the deaths were associated with opioids, including fentanyl, much of which cartels supply into the U.S.

Another issue raised by Homan are so-called "gotaways," illegal immigrants who are known to have gotten past agents. There have been about 800,000-900,000 gotaways since October 2020.

Additionally, in fiscal year 2022, there have been 50 arrests of migrants on the Terrorist Screening Database at the southern border by Border Patrol between ports of entry, a significant increase from prior years.

It's unclear how many illegal immigrants got past agents who aren't known to authorities.

"We don't know what we don't know," said Homan. "This isn't just a public health and public safety issue. This is a national security issue."

ICE and DHS didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.