Thomas Homan, the acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, appeared to break with one of President Donald Trump's key campaign assertions on Wednesday, suggesting he didn't believe immigrants in the country illegally commit more crimes than Americans.
"Did I say aliens commit more crimes than US citizens? I didn't say that," Homan told reporters at an off-camera briefing. "I'm saying, number one, they're in the country illegally. They already committed one crime by entering the country illegally. But when they commit a crime against a citizen of this country, they draw our attention."
The statement contrasts with Trump's frequent insistence that immigrants living in the country illegally present a public safety threat to Americans, and his insinuations that illegal immigration and crime are linked.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump famously said in June 2015 as he announced his candidacy. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
An executive order Trump signed shortly after his inauguration said that many undocumented immigrants "present a significant threat to national security and public safety," and prompted the creation of an office specifically to assist victims of crimes committed by immigrants.
But the rhetoric contrasts with multiple studies showing that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, and even undocumented immigrants don't commit crimes at higher rates than Americans.
But even though Homan broke with the idea that immigrants living in the country illegally commit more crimes than US citizens, he still took a hard line on illegal immigration, saying people "should not be comfortable" with the notion that they won't be targeted for deportation. He also suggested that immigrants who are deported after raising children in the US only have themselves to blame.
"US citizen families get separated every day when a parent gets arrested for a criminal charge. So those here illegally, they put themselves in that position," Homan said. "Not the US government, not the ICE officers."
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