The former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is listed as the “special dinner gala honoree” at an upcoming convention for ACT for America, an organization accused of having links to white supremacists and that is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an anti-Muslim hate group.” Thomas Homan served as ICE’s acting director under President Donald Trump until June of this year. During a period in which the Trump administration came under intense public scrutiny for its aggressive immigration enforcement tactics, Homan was an unapologetic proponent of controversial policies such as the separation of migrant families at the southern border.
ACT for America and its founder Brigitte Gabriel have been criticized by civil rights groups for fomenting anti-Muslim hatred and conspiracy theories. Gabriel, a vocal activist on the right, has claimed that U.S. government institutions have been infiltrated by seditious Muslim sleeper agents and that Muslims generally comprise a fifth column within the United States. The organization has been involved in efforts to promote anti-Muslim legislation at the state level, including so called anti-Sharia bills that would effectively criminalize common religious practices. Last year, the organization staged a nationwide “March Against Sharia” in numerous cities across the United States. Though many of those rallies were overshadowed by larger counterprotests, they were criticized for being organized and attended by white supremacists, including members of the neo-Nazi groups Identity Evropa and Vanguard America. Gabriel herself has said that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” and that Muslims cannot be loyal citizens of the United States. Shortly after Trump took office, Gabriel was welcomed at the White House, sharing pictures of herself meeting with administration officials last year.
This year’s ACT for America national conference, scheduled for September 4 and 5, will be held at a Hyatt Regency hotel in suburban Washington, D.C., despite complaints from activist groups that the hotel chain is effectively helping facilitate a hate rally. In years past, ACT for America’s conferences have attracted numerous high-ranking GOP officials, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was awarded with the organization’s “National Security Eagle Award” in 2017. The previous year’s recipient was current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke at ACT events in 2013 and 2015 and helped organize a 2016 legislative briefing by the group for Republican members of Congress. Gabriel has described Pompeo as a “steadfast ally” of the organization.
Homan’s controversial tenure as ICE chief began shortly after Trump’s inauguration, when the president named him acting director of the organization. In addition to service as ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, a position he was appointed to under President Barack Obama, Homan’s career included previous stints as an New York City police officer and a Border Patrol agent. A 2016 Washington Post profile of Homan highlighting his receipt of a federal civil service award began, “Thomas Homan deports people. And he’s really good at it.” In the year after Homan was appointed, ICE arrests of undocumented people increased by 41 percent over the previous year, according to figures released by the agency.
In June, while still acting as the head of ICE, Homan attended an event at the controversial think tank the Center for Immigration Studies. There, Homan lamented, “A lot of people want to attack ICE. I see it every day. They want to call ICE racists, Nazis,” claiming that the organization, in aggressively pursuing immigration enforcement, was simply acting on a mandate presented by Congress. Homan was criticized for his attendance at that June event in a letter by Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., who said Homan was “lending legitimacy to a hate group.”
In a statement calling for Homan to pull out of the ACT for America conference, Robert McCaw of the Council on American-Islamic Relations cited the legitimizing effect that Homan’s appearance would have. “By appearing at an anti-Muslim hate event,” McCaw said, “Mr. Homan would – because of his past position as head of ICE — send the clear message that bigotry is viewed as acceptable by top government officials in the current administration.”