Immigration Newsmaker Transcript: Book Talk with Former ICE Acting Director Tom Homan

Defend the Border & Save Lives

By Mark Krikorian and Tom Homan on May 2, 2020


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The Center for Immigration Studies streamed an Immigration Newsmaker conversation on Wednesday, April 29, at 11 a.m. EDT featuring former ICE Acting Director Tom Homan, author of a new book, Defend the Border & Save Lives: Solving Our Most Important Humanitarian and Security Crisis. Homan explained why Americans should care about illegal immigration and how to fix the problem.


Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies

Tom Homan
Former Acting Director
Immigration and Customs Enforcement

MARK KRIKORIAN: Hello. I’m Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

And joining us on today’s Immigration Newsmaker discussion is Tom Homan. You know him as former acting director of ICE, but he also turns out to be a writer. He’s got a new book out, “Defend the Border & Save Lives.” We’re going to be talking about the book today, and talking about immigration in general as well.

Tom, thanks for joining us, for taking time out of your – out of your day. Looks like you’re – it looks like you’re not growing a quarantine beard like I am, but –

THOMAS D. HOMAN: I was, but I shaved it.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Oh, there you go.

MR. HOMAN: I did a Fox show yesterday. I didn’t think it was – they’d like it, so I shaved it yesterday.

MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Thank you.

So anyway, to get into the book, the first thing I really noticed in reading it is how personal it is. In other words, it’s not just a Washington policy book about we should do this, that, and the other thing. I mean, that’s in there, but also you really start with sort of your own story – you were in the Border Patrol growing up in Upstate New York, all that stuff. So, you know, why did you want to make it such a personal book, at least in part?

MR. HOMAN: Well, look, because I know a big part of this country doesn’t like who I am. They don’t like what I stand for. They don’t like my position on immigration. And of course, I’ve been called – even by members of Congress I’ve been called “bigot,” and you know, all these other called me a racist and xenophobic and you name it. And I just wanted to set the record straight who I am. You know, I’m a – I’m a kid that grew up in a small town up by the Canadian border in Upstate New York, and I had a great childhood.

The reason it was important to me to talk about my childhood and how I grew up is to explain to the American people that is what our President Trump wants to get back to. He wants to get back to the America that you and I both grew up in, Mark. I mean, the America I see right now is so divided and there’s so much hate out there, it’s – and especially right now in the middle of this pandemic, where I grew up and how I grew up and the America I grew up in, every single person in this country would be circling their wagons around our commander in chief to attack this as a nation, this pandemic, take it on as a nation. And I just don’t see that.

So it was important I wrote this book to let everybody understand who I was, how I grew up, and the America I grew up in, and then I take the argument from there, try and get back to that America where everybody hung an American flag on their front porch, people actually supported the president. Whether you voted for him or not, he’s the president of this nation. So I thought it was important to talk about how I came to be.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So there’s – obviously, you talk about all the different pieces of immigration in your book – you know, E-Verify, border control, all of that stuff. One thing that I thought – I wanted you to talk about a little bit, and you couldn’t have talked about in the book because you wrote this before the virus thing happened, but what are your thoughts about ICE detention and ICE being pressured to let everybody go because of, you know, fears that supposedly the virus is going to hit them in detention. Sort of that whole issue, what are your thoughts on that?

MR. HOMAN: Well, I think – I think the left – I think groups like ACLU and the left is using this pandemic, you know. They’re using this crisis as a way to get their agenda in place. Look, they’re open borders, they don’t believe in immigration detention, and they’re using this pandemic as a way to get through their agenda.

And look, people need to understand every time ICE puts somebody in detention, they already go through a series of reviews, including health. If there is an illegal alien that they want to put in detention but there is a health issue that we can’t properly take care of, then we won’t detain them. If we can’t take care of that person, we won’t detain them because we are responsible for the health and safety of everybody.

So when this pandemic happened, no one needed to sue ICE to release aliens because ICE already did a deep dive on everybody they had in detention. They looked at anybody that’s aged 60 or over. Even though the CDC and World Health Organization put the number at 65, ICE went to 60. Anybody above 60 with prior medical conditions that make them more susceptible to this disease or this virus, if they weren’t a public-safety threat, they released them. ICE releases – you know, last count I knew of it was like 800 people out of – out of the 32,000. So they’ve already done this as a matter of practice.

And plus, you got to – our immigration health services, IC within ICE – there are doctors and nurses that, you know, have our medical program – they’re used to dealing with infectious diseases. We deal with it all the time. Disease comes across that border all the time. I’ve had facilities shut down because of chickenpox and measles. We’ve had lice. We’ve had TB.

And one thing that’s important, a couple years ago when I was ICE director we had a case, Mark, of someone that was arrested by the Border Patrol, a male, that had a TB – had a strain of TB that was unrecognizable, and none of the current drugs could treat it. It wasn’t effective. So we worked with the Department of Public Safety, we worked with the CDC trying to figure out what kind of cocktail can we give this person to address the strain of TB he had. After a couple of months we figured it out, but he stayed in detention for like six months while we treated him. Think for a moment if he wouldn’t have been arrested by the Border Patrol and he would have gotten into our – in our cities or our towns.

So we’ve dealt with disease all the time. So to use this pandemic as an excuse just to release everybody is ridiculous. ICE has already vetted it.

And of course, we got judges – liberal judges across the country who have demanded release of certain detainees, to include specific public-safety threats. I can name right now there’s been at least three releases of illegal aliens that were convicted of homicide. There’s been released at least three other aliens around this country that were convicted of rape. There was at least one alien that was released by a judge’s order in molestation of a child, sexual assault of a child. So it’s ridiculous. And that’s why, you know, we need to keep fighting. Even during a pandemic, it doesn’t mean the rule of law goes out the window and the rule of consequence and deterrence goes out the window. We still got to enforce our laws. We’ve still got to protect this country. We’ve still got to secure our borders.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Something else on detention. You talked about this briefly in the book but didn’t really go into it a lot, and that is this issue of so-called private prisons; in other words, using contractors for detention. And I’ve been to some ICE-owned detention facilities and almost everybody working there was a contractor anyway, so I’m not sure what the difference is if the contractor owns the building or not, but this has been a thing that the anti-enforcement people have really been pushing. And I was wondering, you know, what are your thoughts? Does using contractors for detention – in other words, contract facilities, so-called private prisons – does that work? Are there abuses there that wouldn’t happen if it was all owned by ICE? What are your thoughts on that whole issue?

MR. HOMAN: Well, the reason – the reason we want private detention contractors is because of two reasons.

Number one, they’re cheaper. The government doesn’t do anything – everything we do costs a lot. The facilities that we own, like the SPCs we own in Buffalo and in Georgia, if you want to ask me the most expensive beds we maintain, the beds are the ones in the facilities that we own because the government, we never do anything very smart or very cost-effective. We’re the government, right?

But the private detention contractors, they’ve got state-of-the-art facilities. And I make this argument in my book: They got the highest detention standards in the industry. No one can match the detention standards that our private detention contractors have, especially a big corporation like GEO and CoreCivic. Their detention standards are the top in the world. And I say that for a couple reasons.

Number one, when I was the ICE director I can’t tell you how many county sheriffs either stopped detaining our aliens by contract or refused to enter in a contract with us because our detention standards were too high. And they would argue to me: Why would I change the composition of my jail to give all these benefits to illegal aliens because your detention standards are so high and your medical review is so high? Why would I change all of that at a great cost when I don’t even do that for U.S. citizens? So a lot of sheriffs backed out of our contracts because our detention standards are too high.

So I would say two things. Number one, the facilities run by CoreCivic and GEO, our two biggest contractors, are the best facilities in the world. You can’t find another detention facility in the world that operates at the efficiency and the high detention standards they have. The medical care is state of the art. So I support them because they do it better than the government does it. Their detention standards are higher than government ever had previously.

Again, you can argue about, you know, for-profit prisons, but they just don’t support ICE. They support state and federal. They support U.S. marshals. They support many counties and large cities across the country. It’s a smarter way to do business and it’s a higher detention standard. People who have actually looked at what I will call – if you look on the ICE website and look up PBNDS ’11, and it shows the detention standards that are in most of our facilities, covers over 80 percent of our detainees, they’d be shocked to see how high the detention standards is and how well we treat people in our custody.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, that really came home to me once I was visiting a county jail that had a contract with ICE. And so part of the jail was holding detainees, part of it was the regular county prisoners. And I asked the guy who ran the facility, I said, do you put your new deputies – you know, sort of the rookies – are they – do they start out in the immigration side and then you move them up to the regular jail? He said, oh, heck no. He said because, like you said, the standards are so high and ICE is so demanding that he actually only is able to basically promote his most reliable and experienced guards to work in the ICE part of his facility because the standards are so much higher. Anyway, I mean, it really struck home to me.

MR. HOMAN: And because – and because the medical standards are so high, if you look at the data, data’s clear. If you look at deaths in custody of state and federal prisons across this country, the average is one death in a hundred thousand – for every hundred thousand, the average is, in the state and federal facilities, about 200 to 223 deaths per hundred thousand. In ICE, it’s nine – nine per hundred thousand.


MR. HOMAN: That is a fraction of what other – what the state prison system is, the state – the federal penitentiary, the state prison system. It’s a fraction. You’ve got someone like AOC yelling and screaming about the health care in our facilities, the amount of deaths in our facilities is a fraction percentagewise of what the New York City jail system is. Like, we’re 17 percent of what New York’s – deaths in New York City custody if we do it by percentagewise. So if you look at nine per hundred thousand, compared to most other facilities is 200 per hundred thousand, you can’t argue that ICE has a great medical program.

MR. KRIKORIAN: One last question on this detention issue because it really is one of the things that’s most in the news. What do you think of what the advocates call alternatives to detention, which is to say they’re pushing to not lock people up to make sure that they show up for their hearings later but use ankle bracelets or have somebody call them once a week or whatever it is, various, like they said, alternatives to detention. Do those things work? What are the drawbacks? My sense is they end up actually being a lot more expensive because you end up having to keep people in that kind of operation longer. But what’s your experience been with that?

MR. HOMAN: Well, you’re exactly right. I mean, the alternatives to detention like an ankle bracelet, it’s a good alternative if you have no other choice. But let’s be perfectly clear: 95 percent of everybody ICE deports from the United States we deport from a detention bed because we have custody of them. The average length of stay in detention is about 38 days right now, 38 to 40 days. So in 38 to 40 days, that person has due process per the legal system and we can remove them. If they get released from detention, put on an ankle bracelet, it’s a lot cheaper per day to wear the ankle bracelet than be in a detention bed, but on an ankle bracelet it would take us four or five years to remove them. So if you do the math, it was much cheaper to keep them in detention for 30, 40 days than keep them on an ankle bracelet for four or five years.

Also, the ankle bracelets are pretty good at getting people to court. We can track them when they get to court. But when it comes to actually removing that person, the numbers aren’t – nowhere as near as good. So for those people that we can’t take care of – have medical issues or there’s some other humanitarian reason why they can’t be detained – ankle bracelets are a good alternative to make sure they get to court. But beyond that, there’s nothing better than detention. Detention’s faster, it’s cheaper, and it’s more effective.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And I think the point you made about the difference between actually showing up to court and actually showing up to be deported I think is important because, you know, you got nothing to lose to show up to court if when you lose your case nobody comes looking for you and you’re not in detention anyway. So I mean, that’s a distinction I think that people just don’t get.

MR. HOMAN: Well, with an ankle bracelet getting them – it helps, you know, us track them and make sure they get to court. That is good for another reason, because if they’re actually in court and they get a final order or removal from a judge, that gives them less appeals down the road because if they fail to show up in court, next thing you know they’re arguing, well, I wasn’t notified, I never got the notification to show up in court, I was ordered in absentia, then they file an appeal. Getting them court and hearing that appeal, being in person when they get that – when they get that final order, means that they got less room for appeals. And if we do find them, it’s a quicker removal.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So they can’t say the dog ate their deportation notice or something, so, yeah.

MR. HOMAN: You’d be surprised how many excuses they give.

MR. KRIKORIAN: (Laughs.) Yeah. The –

MR. HOMAN: What’s amazing, Mark, is – what’s amazing is these people can find their way from Central America to our border and to the city they want to go and join their family in, but for some reason they can’t find an immigration court in the very city in which they live in. It’s amazing.

MR. KRIKORIAN: You also have a chapter in your book on the wall. And, obviously, this is the president’s – it was always his signature issue. Ann Coulter, whom I like – Ann’s a friend – but she’s hammered the president that, you know, there hasn’t been any wall construction. My sense is, I mean, from actually being down there, there actually is a good deal of activity going on. What are your thoughts on what’s going on on the wall and what ICE needs – not ICE, but generally what we need from a wall? Because ICE doesn’t have anything to do with the wall but, obviously, it affects what ICE does.

MR. HOMAN: Well, look, I’m a big fan of Ann Coulter, too, and I appreciate her stances on immigration, but she also has to understand that the president’s trying to build this wall with Congress fighting him for every dollar. He’s got people – he’s got environmental groups suing him over environmental laws, and you got Indian reservations suing him because you’re on their land. I mean, it’s constant court battles and litigation when we’re building this wall. Plus, Congress doesn’t want to fund the wall even though they’ve funded border barriers for the last two decades, including Schumer and Pelosi and the rest of them. All of a sudden, when it’s President Trump, they don’t want to build a wall, and now it’s a bad idea.

Well, look, if you – I talk about in my book every place they’ve built a border barrier it has been 100 percent effective. What I mean by that is it has resulted in less illegal immigration and less drug flow. If we take San Diego Sector for an example – I talk about this in my book – when I was a Border Patrol agent in San Diego Sector, I was up in Campo up on a mountain, but you know, as a GS-5, it’s hard to afford to live in San Diego as a GS-5 Border Patrol agent. So I’d work every day I could a sixth and seventh day overtime down in San Ysidro, down at Brown Field, Chula Vista Station, and we worked what they called the soccer fields. There was a – you know, there as a barbwire fence and they had a soccer field just near Tijuana, and when the sun’s going down you would literally see thousands pile up across the whole terrain. And when the sun went down, it was – they’d come across the border in droves, and it was how many can you catch. How many – you know, how many got away, how many can you catch? Because once they get into San Ysidro they’re lost. So it was eye-opening.

But once they built a border barrier in San Diego – I talked to the chief at the time, Rodney Scott, when they were looking at the prototypes in San Diego. He said they were at 95 percent operational control of that border. They went from 2,000 arrests a night to 30, 32 a night in that sector because the fence worked.

Now, the wall they’re building, of course, it was based on, you know, like, eight different prototypes. They had all these prototypes built by these manufacturers. Border Patrol hired, you know, outside teams to try to drill through them and climb them. They had their SRT team, Navy SEALs, they brought them in, try to climb them, try to drill through them, try to penetrate it. So they took a little bit of each prototype and created their wall, which is a baluster that they can see through. And it’s working. And you’re right, they’ve already built, I think, just shy of 200 new miles beyond.

But what the left keeps talking about is this isn’t – this isn’t all-new wall; it’s replacement wall. Well, the president is building the wall exactly where the Border Patrol wants him to build it. So if they have dilapidated fencing that no longer is effective, the Border – and here’s where our traffic is – replace this fencing first before you build brand-new fencing way over here. So the wall that’s going up is built exactly where the Border Patrol wants it built based on apprehension data. So I think every mile of new wall, regardless of if it’s replacement wall, is new wall that is more effective than the dilapidated wall that was there.

So I think they’ll have a good 4(00) to 500 miles built by the end of the year, and I think it’s – I think the president’s keeping his promise to the American people. What really irritates me is when I hear Democrats call it Trump’s vanity wall. This isn’t Trump’s wall; this is America’s wall. We’ve proven it works. So why not do what we can to give the Border Patrol the tools they need to secure our border? It just – it makes sense.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And I think to reinforce your point, I mean, I’ve been to a good deal of the border too, and some of the places where they’re saying the existing barrier is being replaced, the existing barrier may have been barbed wire. It may have been rusted-through landing mat from Vietnam. I mean, literally, it’s Army surplus from 50-plus, 60 years ago. And in some cases it may be new, but it’s the vehicle barriers. They call them Normandy barriers. It’s basically like a – I mean, a – like a sort of when – a ranch fence, a corral fence, except it’s made out of metal, and you know, your grandma could hop over it or climb under it. Replacing that with a 30-foot-high bollard wall is a new wall, just to reinforce your point.

MR. HOMAN: And that’s a good point. Back in – I talk about this in my book. Back in I think it was 1986, I was part of a group of two or three Border Patrol agents that had the highest – the biggest seizure in the history of the Border Patrol at the time. It was like 220 kilos of cocaine. A sensor went off in Hakuma (ph), California, and we responded to the sensor. It was a drive-through. A guy was driving a utility truck like you see a(n) electrician’s truck, right over the barbwire fence, came into the United States, but we had sensors on that road because they’d done it before. We stopped it, got over 200 kilos of coke, which at the time was the largest cocaine seizure in the history of the Border Patrol.

When I went back to the International Chiefs of Police Association a couple years ago in San Diego, I took one day off and drove to my old – to my old station where I used to patrol, and I went to that place where we got that truck. Guess what? There’s a big, beautiful wall there now, so no truck can drive across that wall.

Which adds one more thing I want to add real quick. Do not believe when the left keeps saying most drugs come through the port of entries, so there’s no need for a wall, a wall’s not going to stop drugs. That is wrong. What people need to understand, more drugs are seized at a port of entry because every vehicle is stopped and based on the interview they decide whether to secondary that vehicle or not. If you’re a drug smuggler, you know you are – you know 100 percent you’re going to be stopped and you’re going to be talked to. So a lot of seizures happen at a port of entry because they have more thorough inspection. We don’t know what comes between the ports of entry because not every vehicle’s stopped and not every backpacker stopped or caught by the Border Patrol. So I still say more drugs come between the port of entry. If I’m a drug smuggler and I know my car’s going to be stopped going through San Ysidro or I can drive through a drive-through where there’s no fence built yet, I would pick the drive-through. My chances are better. So that’s – I think it’s a false narrative for a lot of the Democratic leadership to say more drugs come through a port of entry. No, more drugs are seized at a port of entry.

MR. KRIKORIAN: It’s kind of like the old joke about the drunk’s looking for his keys under the streetlight and somebody asks him, why is he looking there. He says, well, the light’s better here. You know, it may not – it may be I dropped it over there across the street, but the light’s better here. So anyway, yeah, there’s no question about it.

Let me – there’s a question somebody had submitted. And for anybody who is listening, if you want to submit questions you can email them to [email protected] or on Twitter at @CIS_org.

The president recently – I think it was yesterday – was asked about something, and what he said about these state bailout bills – in other words, bailing out some of the states or maybe cities, too – I didn’t hear him say it – because of – you know, because of the pandemic – that any bailout money should come with strings that their – they should not be sanctuary cities; in other words, they should end their sanctuary policies. What’s your thought on that specifically, but then generally sanctuaries overall?

MR. HOMAN: I agree. Look, the sanctuary cities, they’re un-American and they’re a threat to our way of life. They’re a threat to U.S. citizens in this country.

If you look at who’s – what states are asking for bailouts – New York, California, Illinois – all these are sanctuary cities. When Gavin Newsom spends millions of dollars giving illegal aliens, you know, help, and when you give them free college tuition and driver’s licenses and free medical care – like New York City, they get free medical care; California, free medical care – when you – when you spend that kind of money on the illegal alien population, I’m not surprised your state’s going bankrupt.

Second of all, we got to stop rewarding illegal behavior, and I’ve said this many, many times. You know, everybody wants to know – I talk about, you know, family separation and cages, and everybody has – how Trump – you know, this border’s out of control. The reason the border’s out of control is because the Democratic leadership failed to stop offering enticements. While the president got 80 percent control on the southern border by his out-of-the-box thinking working with Mexico and Central America, building a wall, doing all these things this president has gone – remain in Mexico program – at the same time every Democrat running for president was talking about getting rid of ICE. Let’s get rid of ICE, let’s end immigration detention, let’s end private – jails making money on this, let’s give free medical care to illegal aliens, let’s give them driver’s licenses, let’s continue with sanctuary cities where they can come to our city, commit a crime, and we still won’t work with ICE. When you offer these kinds of incentives, why do you think they’re coming? They’re coming because we’re incentivizing them to come and we keep rewarding illegal behavior.

So I stand with the president. We got to – this country has proven over and over and over again come to this country illegally, ignore a judge’s order you have to leave, go become a fugitive, hide out long enough, and you’re going to get something. You’re going to get DACA or you’re going to get amnesty. We’ll give you something. We got to stop rewarding illegal behavior. If we stop that, we can actually, you know, address this crisis once and for all.

But I stand with the president. Sanctuary cities, if they are sanctuary cities, they shouldn’t get a bailout from the United States government. Absolutely not. Why should I pay for New York City to release some MS-13 gang member to the street and give him free medical care? Now they’re in financial trouble and they want me to bail them out. Why should – why should we do that? I agree with the president. I’m with him 100 percent on that.

MR. KRIKORIAN: You had a whole chapter in your book – just as a reminder for people tuning in, “Defend the Border & Save Lives.” Let’s see if I can get that on the screen. There you are. Available at any virtual bookstore because there’s no real bookstores right now. But Amazon, elsewhere you can get it.

You have a chapter on illegal employment. And I think you maybe remember I asked you early in your term as acting director of ICE about enforcement at the worksite because that’s the magnet that’s drawing people in. You can have million-mile walls with machineguns and you can have ICE agents everywhere and Border Patrol; if the magnet pulling people in, if you can still – it’s easy to get a job, it’s going to be hard to control that. And you had said that under your – while you were there you had a 400 percent increase in worksite enforcement. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the importance of it, but also the challenges of actually getting, you know, the ban on hiring illegal aliens enforced.

MR. HOMAN: Well, I think, you know, of course, as you said, workforce enforcement’s a huge magnet. If these people can’t get jobs when they get here, many of them won’t come.

Because, look, you look at the immigration – the International Organization for Migration, the part of the United Nations, actually did a study on this. When we had this crisis on this border, these families coming across and this unprecedented surge the last couple years, IOM actually did a study, and they themselves found that 60 to 70 percent of these people who claim they’re escaping fear and persecution from the government are coming here for economic reasons. They’re coming here to get a job. And all you got to do is look at the billions of dollars. Last year, $80 billion was sent to Mexico through remittances of illegal aliens living here sending money back to Mexico. So coming here to the United States is a big – is a big magnet.

And I did, when I was ICE director – you called me out at one of my first meetings about immigration taking seriously worksite enforcement, and I committed to you that day we’d increase by 400 percent, which they did. I think they actually got 416 percent. But it makes a difference.

I’ll give you one – give you one example. They shut down a sausage-packing plant up in the Detroit area and they arrested over a hundred illegal aliens. And guess what? You know – you know who took those jobs after those were removed from the workforce? Black Americans actually replaced – you know, unemployed black Americans in that area actually took those jobs.

And look, you look at – and the reason enforcement of – enforcement of worksite is so important is because, number one, a lot of identity theft goes on. People’s credit gets ruined because these people use their Social Security number. And no one hires an illegal alien out of the goodness of their heart. They hire them for a couple reasons. Number one, they can work them harder, pay them less, and undercut the competition.

And let me explain a personal issue I had. I had roof damage on my house after a storm a couple years ago. I had to call five different roofing companies until I found a roofing company that would guarantee me a legal workforce. Then, when that company came, it was a father and a son. And the father was there and he talked to me, and he recognized me right away. And he says, OK, now I understand why you want a legal workforce. He goes, here, let me tell you my story. I had over 20 U.S. citizen employees. I had a pretty big company. We replaced roofs all across Virginia. He goes, but I could no longer compete with the companies hiring illegal aliens because they only pay them five bucks an hour to get on the roof where a U.S. citizen is not going to get up on the roof in the middle of summer for five bucks an hour. He goes, they’re underbidding me on all these jobs. I ended up – ended up laying off over 20 United States citizen employees because I could no longer afford them because I couldn’t compete with illegal-alien labor.

So it has – it has hurt our wages in this country. It has driven wages down. It has displaced U.S.-citizen workers. And, plus, it’s an enticement to come to this country.

E-Verify isn’t foolproof. It can be beat, I talk about in my book. But it’s the best thing we got going right now and it has prevented thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants – (inaudible). I talk in my book how we an improve E-Verify. And what’s frustrating to me, Mark, there’s even some Republicans in Congress who don’t want to see E-Verify enacted. If they truly want to stop illegal employment, they need a system of checks and balances. And E-Verify, with some moderate changes, could be effective.

So I’m with you. I think the – I think the president needs to continue to push some sort of system like E-Verify to stem the flow of illegal-alien labor. And look, just – look what he’s done just recently on his immigration proposal on the resident aliens. Anybody coming, he’s going to stop that to save those jobs for Americans during the pandemic. I’ve actually – I’ve actually talked about it, talked about on Fox News it needs to be expanded, especially to H-1Bs and H-2Bs. It needs to be expanded to temporary workers to really make an impact because even before this pandemic H-1B has displaced thousands of U.S.-citizen workers in the high-paying IT field. So we need to go further with it.

So illegal immigration, big magnet, we need to – we need to address it. If we truly – and I say in my book if we truly need foreign labor to do our work, then create a legal system justified by numbers that you cannot find either a U.S. citizen or legal resident who could take that job in that area. Create a legal system where they can come with a temporary visa, come to work. That’s going to do a couple things: number one, it’s going to – the magnets will go away; number two, these people who come with a legal visa don’t put themselves in harm’s way. They don’t have to hire a criminal organization. They’re not going to drown in a river. They’re not going to be lost in the desert. They’re not – 31 percent of women won’t be raped. Children won’t die. But give it a legal consequence – you know, a legal way to come in – but the legal system has to be based on facts, not just conjecture – let’s raise this visa by 20,000 because Microsoft told us they need them. We need to verify that information.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Have you made your pitch for E-Verify to the president? Because it’s three-and-a-half years in now and we haven’t really seen a lot of activity on E-Verify. Obviously, Congress would have to probably mandate it for everybody everywhere. But I think there is a lot the administration could do, and I’m not sure they’ve been as vigorous in pushing it as they could have been.

MR. HOMAN: I have – I have made my push, but I know that the members of Congress and the White House are under a lot of pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and other people that think we need this workforce. That’s why I think a study showing do we really need it and justify it. Just because Microsoft or someone says they need 20,000 techies from – foreign techies, do they really need it? Or is there – is there U.S. citizens or even legal residents in this nation who can take those jobs?

I know that I’ve talked to people myself that have lost their jobs. They’ve actually trained foreign nationals to do their job as part of this bring them in, we need more workforce, then after they train them they’re gone because their salary’s higher than the foreign national’s. So it certainly needs to be fixed, and I have – I have talked to the White House about it, absolutely.

MR. KRIKORIAN: To go back to the border, you write a good deal about what your experience was with the – you know, the families coming across the border when that was a real spike before the new rules clamped down on it. And right now nobody’s getting across the border at all; they’re turning people back without even doing credible-fear interviews. So what – and, obviously, that’s where the whole zero-tolerance, kids-in-cages supposedly, all that family-separation stuff happened. You know, sort of briefly, what do you think? Did anything go wrong there? Was it working? Is there a way to make that work in a way that’s less incendiary to people? What are your thoughts on that whole issue?

MR. HOMAN: Well, look, when it came to zero tolerance, it worked. In the three weeks they did zero tolerance – of course, the left wants to call it “family separation,” tearing babies from the arms of mothers. Now, first of all, no one tore a baby out of their mother’s arms. And these same people that talk about tearing a baby out of the mother’s arms are the same people that have no problem with tearing a baby out of the mother’s womb and killing it. They’re fine with that, right? But zero tolerance works.

Law enforcement uses zero tolerance across this country all the time, whether it’s drug enforcement or prostitution. You know, law enforcement uses zero tolerance. And why did – why did we get to zero tolerance and why did the president declare a national emergency? People need to understand why this even happened to begin with.

When the family crisis was happening on the border, 50 to 60 percent of the Border Patrol was no longer on the line. The Border Patrol made numerous pleas: half our Border Patrol agents are no longer patrolling the border because they’re changing diapers, making baby formula, making hospital runs. So half of the Border Patrol was not on the border. What does that mean? That means that at the same time half the Border Patrol was not on the border, opioids are being smuggled into this country that kill over 60,000 Americans, opioid deaths. When the border is half-patrolled and 50 percent down from Border Patrol patrols, if you’re a bad guy – if you’re a gang member, a drug smuggler who wants to smuggle opioids, if you’re a terrorist that wants to come into the country to do us harm – you can’t get a plane ticket anymore, it’s too hard with all the database checks; it’s hard to get a visa with this Visa Security Program to come and do harm to this country because all the database checks that do look for derogatory information – you’re going to come to the country the same way 20 million others did, through the southwest border, especially when half the Border Patrol’s not on the line anymore because of the crisis.

So the president and I think Attorney General Jeff Sessions recognized 31 percent of women are being raped making that journey. Children are dying. Cartels are making millions of dollars a year smuggling families and smuggling drugs because the Border Patrol’s – the border’s half-controlled. Sixty thousand people or more died of overdose deaths. The president knew that the border was that vulnerable to terrorism because half the Border Patrol was no longer there. When you take all this stuff and Congress was doing nothing – we asked for two years to close the loopholes, calling this; they refused to take any action – the president said, all right, well, I’m declaring a national emergency because I’ve got to protect the country, I’ve got to save lives – not only U.S. citizens, save lives of the immigrants who are dying. So I think it was a good call to declare a national emergency.

Zero tolerance was made under the same circumstances, saying, OK, what can we do? I think the administration was looking to do anything it could legally to gain control of the border and save lives. And that’s where I was – at my last hearing I got in an argument with AOC when she talked about zero tolerance. I did what I did – I did what I did as the ICE director to save lives and protect this country.

And think for a moment. When zero tolerance happened, what people don’t want to talk about, 26 percent decline in Rio Grande Valley within two weeks. If they would have stuck with zero tolerance for another 30 days we might not have had that second surge.

So I ask you this. The president now has gotten the border numbers down 80 percent from the high in May. If 80 percent less people are crossing into this country illegally, how many women weren’t raped? How many children didn’t die? How many millions of dollars did the cartels not make – same cartels that have murdered Border Patrol agents, by the way, and smuggled drugs into this country? How many drugs weren’t smuggled because the Border Patrol was back on the line doing their job? How many lives were saved from overdose deaths? If we take that into consideration, you got to give this president credit. Eighty percent decline means 80 percent decline in deaths, rapes, drugs. It just – it just makes sense.

So zero tolerance, despite how unpopular it was – look, it’s sad when you have to separate a parent from a child when a parent gets prosecuted, but it happens to U.S. families every day across this country when a parent gets prosecuted. It could have been messaged better. It could have been, you know, explained better, because the left got a hold of the media right away and they had their whole false narrative running on it, so it was hard to fight it after the fact. It could have been messaged better. It could have been operationally planned better with Health and Human Services and their database failures. But the intent was not hate for migrants, the intent was to be, you know – you know, xenophobic and racist. The intent was to secure the border, protect Americans, and save lives – not only Americans, but the immigrants’. So the intent was – the intent was fine. I thought the intent was important.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Before we go on, let me do a little commercial for CIS. We are online at If you’ve come in late to this discussion, the whole thing will be online at our website, as is our earlier discussion from the other day with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s running to return to the Senate. And there is a button on our website, in case you have a few bucks rattling around in your pocket, to help CIS. We’re a nonprofit, and obviously, this a tough time for all businesses including nonprofits. And again, to plus Tom’s book, “Defend the Border & Save Lives” on Amazon and anywhere else that sells books.

If I could ask a question about – you were talking about the harm that smuggled immigrants themselves undergo. And what really, I think, was a striking part of your book was toward the beginning where you talked about one of your most searing experiences with smuggling. This is this famous Victoria, Texas, example where there was a truck where people had been locked in a lot of them had been killed and you were there onsite. If you could just maybe sort of touch on why that was so important to you and why that matters in thinking about policy.

MR. HOMAN: Well, it was important to try to frame the argument. You know, I get a lot of people always asking me, why – we see you on Fox News a lot and you look really emotional every time you talk about this. And people have seen me at Congress, of course, YouTube fame now, my testimony in front of Congress where I get very emotional and I lose my temper. And people need to understand, why is Tom Homan so emotional about this? Why does he take this issue so seriously? Because of what I’ve seen in 34 years of my career enforcing immigration law.

And I’ve said it many times. If people saw what I saw, experienced what I experienced, investigated the things I investigated that would turn your stomach, they’d understand why I take a hard line on this. And I get frustrated when members of Congress refuse to address it. For three decades they’ve refused to address it. And at that one hearing where the congressman said I didn’t care about dying children, have I ever held a dying child in my hands, he should have did his research because I have, and that one incident made Tom Homan who he is today.

So I talk about things. And that one incident, I talk about it. I was in Dallas giving a speech to the International Chiefs of Police. I get a phone call from headquarters. They have me take an Air and Marine flight down to Victoria, Texas, at a scene of a horrific smuggling incident. Now remember, if you read the book, I grew up in a town of 2,500 people, right? At the time, the only dead person I ever saw was my grandmother in a casket at her funeral. Now here’s this – you know, this same person who grew up in West Carthage, New York, standing on the back of a tractor trailer, the scene was still – I mean, the Texas Rangers walked me through the scene because we were taking over the investigation. And I’m in the back of that tractor trailer, and at my feet at 17 dead migrants, and two – there was two more that died. It was a total of 19, but two died on the way to the hospital. But I’m standing in the back of the tractor with 17 dead migrants at my feet, including a 5-year-old little boy that was the first one to perish, and he was – he was under his father’s arms. His father tried to, you know, protect him, and his father died on top of him.

And it’s a – once you’re there and you see it and you smell it and you – and you feel the pain they must have went through, when I thought – when I’m standing in the back of the tractor trailer, the first thing I thought of: What was that small child – that 5-year-old – what was his 30 minutes of life like, that last 30 minutes? What did he go through? And what did that father go through knowing he put his son in this position and watching his son dying in his arm(s)? The coroner says probably about 178 degrees in the back of that tractor trailer. They’re in a steel box. It’s black. They can’t see. They had so many people in the back of that tractor trailer it was standing room only, so when people die they’re dying standing. It was just – what a nightmare way to perish. So after seeing that – and I had a 5-year-old son at the time, and I talk about I didn’t sleep for several nights because every time I closed my eyes I see my own son.

So you think about that wasn’t alien smuggling; that was mass murder by a smuggling organization that didn’t care about these people. And I talk about over and over in my book smugglers, these people they smuggle, it’s a commodity for them. They’re worth so much money if they get them to their final destination. And if they die on the way, they leave them because they’re worth – they’re worth nothing anymore as far as the smuggler’s concerned.

So I get angry when members of Congress refuse to close the loopholes that causes illegal immigration such as E-Verify, such as, you know, changing the asylum system, such as letting us detain families long enough to see a judge. When they close those loopholes, make common-sense changes, we can fix this border. We can. It’s never going to be foolproof 100 percent, but the president’s already dropped illegal immigration down 80 percent. The president’s shown us it can be done.

So that’s why I put tragedies that I witnessed in my book, so people understand where I’m coming from. And hopefully, when they read it and they see it, they say, OK, now I know illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Women are being raped. Children are dying. People are dying, thousands every year. So, yeah, maybe I should take an interest in this. And maybe when I see that illegal alien working in this restaurant, I’m not thinking, hey – (audio break) – take better care of his family. No, there’s a whole underbelly of this that you never see and you don’t understand. I want them to understand that underbelly so they’ll pick the phone up when they get done reading this book and call their senator or congressman and say, you need to fix this, because now I know what goes on, now I know how it works, and now I know the truth.

And then I – Mark, the whole reason I wrote this book is out of frustration. You can’t explain this issue in a six-, seven-minute Fox sit, right? You can’t explain it in testimony because they won’t let you talk because they don’t want to hear the truth. So out of frustration I said, you know what, they can’t gavel me shut – they can’t shut me up by gaveling a book. They can’t shut me up by a limited number of interview time. So I wrote a book. They can’t stop that. And so this book’s about the facts, and it puts the false narrative to bed.

MR. KRIKORIAN: You’ve got a couple of questions from listeners. Two of them relate to the border. I figure I’d give them both and you decide what you want to answer.

One said – seems to be a local police officer who’s dealt with a lot of illegal immigrants, dealt with ICE. And what he said is that he’s found a lot of these people have been arrested over and over and over again by Border Patrol or by ICE, but they’re not – Border Patrol in particular, they’re not arrested – I mean, they’re not prosecuted for multiple reentry. Because if you keep coming over over and over again, you can be prosecuted. Crossing the border even the first time is a crime. And so would actually prosecuting people who kept coming – keep coming over and over, rather than just dumping them back across the border, would that be a deterrent? That’s the first thing.

And the other one is, do you think the numbers will go back up once this pandemic scare subsides?

MR. HOMAN: Well, to your first question I’d say yes, that prosecution is a deterrent. Look, we show it – we showed it during zero tolerance. Like I said, as unfortunate as it was that the administration was forced in a position to do zero tolerance because Congress wouldn’t do anything to fix this, 26 percent drop in two weeks, so consequence is proven to work. And Border Patrol has operational streamlining we’ve done many years, and I don’t know where they’re at with it now, but prosecution matters.

But at the same time, you can’t prosecute a million people because the U.S. attorneys cannot handle it. They don’t have the jail space. So that’s why Border Patrol, when the prosecute somebody, they usually have multiple entries.

So, again, prosecution works. It’s a deterrent. It’s a consequence. And the Border Patrol has a consequence to delivery system that shows every time you apply a consequence it has an effect on repeat illegal entries. So, yes, prosecution acts as a deterrent.

The second, do I think the border is – I think that right now the risk is this. We don’t know what’s going on in Mexico with the pandemic. You know, I’m sure the pandemic is hitting them hard in their economy. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better in Mexico. So I think there are going to be a certain number of people who come to the United States to try to get the best medical care available in the world. So that worries me.

The second thing is, like I just said, with the unemployment rate so high right now in the United States because of the pandemic, the remittances that go to Mexico, the billions of dollars every year that go to Mexico, have been strangled because a lot of illegal aliens in this country are also unemployed because of the pandemic. So they’re going to get a double whammy. They’re going to see their GDP go down because of lack of remittances and they’re going to see their economy get hurt the same way as ours does. And let’s face it, if they want to be treated in a Mexican hospital or an American hospital, some will try to come and get treatment.

And what scares me is a place like El Paso, right? You got a population of about a half a million in El Paso – 600,000, approximately, in El Paso. But just south in Juarez we have just under 2 million. So just a small fraction of that comes across the border, it would inundate the El Paso hospital, which is already up to their eyeballs in this stuff.

Here’s my biggest concern. I’ve said it for months. The president had a great idea by saying we’re going to attack the criminal cartels in Mexico and drive the violence down. And I said on Laura Ingraham’s show one time – I said my concern is if we don’t address the cartels and the violence in Mexico, some liberal judge someplace is going to say Mexico is too violent, it is no longer a safe third country, you must stop the remain in Mexico program, which has been a gamechanger. And it happened. A judge in the Ninth Circuit decided he’s going to shut it down. Luckily, the Supreme Court stepped in during this pandemic and says, no, we got – we got – we’re going to let it remain because, I think, out of – out of the risk of the pandemic. After this is over with, are they going to stick by it? The remain in Mexico program I think is going to be in trouble.

And look, I’ve said it many times, again. I appreciate the president getting Mexico to help us control their border by having a lot of military on the border, letting us do the remain in Mexico program. Mexico’s helped greatly. But if Mexico decides to stop helping us – if they come to us and say, OK, we’ve had enough of this, it’s too expensive, we’re not doing it no more – we’re in trouble because Congress still has not addressed the loopholes that would address this crisis. And there’s only three loopholes. They could – they could fix them in a matter of a day. They haven’t done it. And they haven’t done it for one reason: They want to make immigration an issue for 2020. They want to – they want to try to show this president has failed on his number-one campaign promise, he’s been unsuccessful. This is about the campaign.

Now let me tell you something: 80 percent decline because of this president. No help from Congress. No help from the courts. He’s been very successful doing it all by himself, so I think they’re going to lose that argument. But that’s their plan. Their plan is to try to see this president fail. It’s a sad day in America when the country of Mexico does more to help us secure our southern border than the Democratic leadership in Congress.

MR. KRIKORIAN: You brought up the election. And while CIS is a nonprofit – we don’t have any role in elections – I was just wondering, you as a private citizen, you can say anything you want. And what are your thoughts about how immigration and border policies would change if Joe Biden, assuming he actually ends up being the nominee, wins the election and then takes office in January? What do – what do you think it’ll look like when we get in next year, if that happens?

MR. HOMAN: We lose the border. We lose the border. I mean, I’m writing an op-ed right now, Mark, on this. I looked at – you go to Joe Biden’s website, just his first page, his first paragraph, what he talks about, and I’ve attacked every one of them. Joe Biden’s already been on record saying that we won’t deport illegal aliens unless they’re convicted of a serious felony. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the world? He just basically said it’s OK to enter this country illegally in violation of federal law, it’s OK to work here illegally, it’s OK to be here illegally, it’s OK to ignore a judge’s order; just don’t commit a felony in addition to the crime you had when you entered illegally and we’re not going to remove you. That message from somebody who may be president of this country, do you – common sense, do you think that’s going to drive more illegal immigration when the president himself has said unless you commit a felony we’re not going to deport you? He also says the first action he’s going to take as president is stop all deportations.

He made a comment he didn’t think DUI was serious enough of a crime to deport somebody for. First of all, the law is clear: You can deport somebody for simply being here illegally. There’s no prerequisite you got to commit yet another crime on top of the illegal entry crime. But he’s already said DUI is not important enough to deport somebody on. DUI killed over 10,000 people last year. How can – how can the commander in chief, the president of the nation, say DUIs don’t matter and say, you know, the only illegal aliens that we’re going to deport are ones who commit felonies – significant felonies, not all felonies? That basically opens the door: Come, we’re not going to remove you.

So I think we’re going to lose the border. I think – I think sanctuary cities are going to be going across the city even though they won’t need them because ICE won’t be able to deport them unless they’ve got an aggravated felony. Now, I’m hoping Joe Biden, he’s just saying this as part of his campaign, but all the success Donald Trump has made – President Trump has made – 80 percent decline on the southern border – goes away day one if he doesn’t retain the presidency.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And last question sort of along these same lines: Are we going to see a – well, go ahead.

MR. HOMAN: Well, let me add one more thing to that.


MR. HOMAN: And how can I say something like that? When the Ninth Circuit said we’re going to stop the remain in Mexico program until the stay was ordered by the Supreme Court, the day they said we’re going to stop the remain in Mexico program hundreds – hundreds – of illegal aliens in Mexico were lining up to come across the border because they knew they couldn’t be held in Mexico anymore. Luckily, the Supreme Court took action quickly. It was – it was within hours of that decision that we’re looking at another surge. It’s proven itself.

So, again, I am a private citizen. I think – I’ve worked for six presidents. I think Donald Trump has done more to secure our border than any of the six of them. And I respect every president I ever worked for to the present. But I think Donald Trump has done more to secure the border and keep his promise. He not only talked the talk during the campaign; he’s walking the walk. So I think if we want a secure border and protect Americans from illegal immigration and save lives, Donald Trump’s the guy.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So let’s look at a different scenario in November. If Biden or whoever the Democrat is loses, if the president’s reelected, are we going to see Secretary Homan of Homeland Security? Or is there any kind of a job we should be looking forward for you in January?

MR. HOMAN: I will say this: Never say never. I came back once from retirement for this president, and depending on what the needs were I’d probably come back again just because, if you read this book, it’s really my heart and soul. My whole life’s been wrapped around this issue. And I think we got the right guy in the office that can make an effective change, so if he needs my help I’d certainly consider coming back, yes.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, Tom, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I hope the book sells well. Again, it’s “Defend the Border & Save Lives” at Amazon and anywhere else you can buy books. It’s also available on Kindle. I actually read it on Kindle. I have the hardcopy here, too.

And the Center for Immigration Studies is online at This whole discussion will be there. Like I said, earlier this week we had a talk with Jeff Sessions. That’s online as well. And for those of you who want to support the Center, as a nonprofit your donations are tax-deductible. Large or small, we appreciate them.

Tom, again, thank you. Good luck. Hopefully, I’ll be calling you maybe Mr. Secretary or something else soon, but we’ll see how that turns out. In the meantime, we hope all of our listeners will join us for our next Immigration Newsmaker talk, whenever that is. We don’t have one scheduled yet, but we’ll have one soon. Thank you, Tom, and thanks to everybody who’s watching. Bye now.

MR. HOMAN: And let me add one thing, Mark, to the folks that are watching.


MR. HOMAN: Please support CIS. When I was the director of ICE, even when I was running ERO – Enforcement and Removal Operations, number three in ICE – CIS was a great help to the rule of law and helping ICE do their job. And they’re on the right side of the argument, folks, and we’re in a fight for our – we’re in a fight for our lives right now. We’re in a fight for this country. CIS gets it. They’re on the right side of the issues and they’re helping shape immigration in the future. So please support them.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Very kind. Thank you, Tom. And thanks to everybody listening, and we’ll see you next time.