Thomas Homan, the Trump administration’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from January 2017 to June 2018, helped to transform the agency into an arm of Donald Trump’s nativist agenda. During his 17 months, ICE escalated its terror tactics against immigrant communities, tormented thousands of individuals in ICE custody, and lied to federal courts. On Thursday, asked to answer for his agency’s conduct and policies in a congressional hearing, he responded with a meltdown that perfectly captured a lawless organization’s rejection of any rules or authority that might limit its power.
Thursday’s hearing before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship focused on ICE detention centers, a hotbed of human rights abuses. More than 50,000 immigrants are currently being held in ICE custody, with private, for-profit prisons housing nearly three-fourths of them. Reports issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General in June 2019 and September 2018 found that ICE facilities are filthy, brutal, and dangerous. Immigrants, including children, are routinely denied access to medical care. They are forced to live in filthy conditions, given food that is expired and unsafe, denied hygiene items like toothbrushes and soap, and denied recreation and visitation. Detainees are illegally placed in solitary confinement and strip-searched. At one facility, inspectors found nooses in 15 different cells. At least 24 immigrants have died in ICE detention under Trump.