Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday tried to shame former acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Thomas Homan for recommending a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
The New York Democrat at first sought to label Homan the “author of family separation.” She held up a copy of a memo Homan sent then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recommending prosecution of all adult migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally.
But Homan wasn’t accepting the simplistic narrative Ocasio-Cortez offered up.
“I’m not the author of this memo,” he fired back, saying that he had simply signed the “‘zero tolerance’ memo.”
“So, you provided the official recommendation to Secretary Nielsen for the United States to pursue family separation,” Ocasio-Cortez tried again.
Homan again pushed back, saying that he had at various times given Nielsen “numerous recommendations on how to secure the border and save lives.”
“The recommendation, of the many that you recommended, you recommended family separation,” Ocasio-Cortez pressed.
“I recommended zero tolerance,” Homan responded.
“Which includes family separation,” Ocasio-Cortez offered.
“The same as it is with every U.S. citizen parent that gets arrested with a child,” Homan said.
After a few seconds of seemingly confused silence, Ocasio-Cortez started: “Zero tolerance was interpreted as the policy that separated children from their –”
“If I get arrested for DUI and I have a young child in the car, I’m gonna be separated,” interrupted Homan. “When I was a police officer in New York and I arrested a father for domestic violence, I separated that father from his home.”
“Mr. Homan with all due respect, legal asylees are not charged with any crime,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
However, Homan pointed out that being present in the United States without documentation is illegal, ayslum seeker or no.
“Seeing asylum is legal,” Ocasio-Cortez insisted.
“If you want to seek asylum, go to a port of entry, do it the legal way,” Homan advised. “The attorney general of the United States made that clear.”
“OK,” Ocasio-Cortez responded, and moved on.
Exchange between @RepAOC and Thomas Homan
Rep. @AOC: "The recommendation, of the many that you recommended, you recommended family separation."
Homan: "I recommended zero tolerance."
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 12, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez versus Homan
Ocasio-Cortez has been leading critics of President Donald Trump’s immigration regime, treating it as an atrocity on a historic scale. Although Trump nixed the zero tolerance police in June, just two months after it was announced, the congresswoman has discovered new reasons for outrage. Last month, she began comparing overcrowded migrant detention centers on the border – formerly used, and in some cases build by former President Barack Obama – to Nazi concentration camps.
During Friday’s hearing, a number of other House Democrats took up AOC’s moralistic mantle, staging a series of dramatic clashes with Homan. At one point, Rep. Jesús García, an Illinois Democrat, accused Homan of not caring about deaths of migrant children because they do not “look like” his own kids.
“How can you possibly allow this to happen under your watch?” Garcia asked. “Is it because these children don’t look like children that are around you?”
“Your comments are disgusting,” Homan replied. “For you to sit there and insult my integrity and my love for my country and for children — that’s why this whole thing needs to be fixed! And you’re the member of Congress. Fix it.”
In tense exchange, Rep. Jesús García spars with acting ICE Dir. Thomas Homan over child separation: “Is it because these children don’t look like children that are around you?”
— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2019
The Department of Homeland Security has previously confirmed that Homan suggested the zero tolerance policy following the 2014 migration crisis. Along with other DHS officials, Homan warned that the United States was vulnerable to another crisis at the border because migrants were taking advantage of laws limiting the government’s ability to detain underage minors. While migrant families were occasionally separated under then-President Obama, the proposal was shelved until the Trump administration rediscovered it.
- Former acting ICE Director Thomas Homan responds to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., during a House hearing in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2019.: C-SPAN