A tense hearing over border detention practices erupted into a shouting match between former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) DirectorThomas Homanand Rep.Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., as Homan grew frustrated in his attempts to defend his former agency.
Jayapal, the vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, repeatedly cut off Homan for exceeding his allotted time. It started when the former ICE director responded to a previous statement Jayapal made about the Trump administration’s use of funding for additional detention beds.
“I’d like to remind you, under the Obama administration we did that most of the years he was president,” Homan said. “I don’t remember any hearings on that.” He also pointed out that under Obama, when there had been a surge at the border, “Congress was quick to give us all the money we needed.”
Jayapal responded, saying, “I didn’t like it under the Obama administration either.”
Homan interjected, stating that Congress should be more transparent and should not criticize the Trump administration while giving a pass to Obama for similar practices. Jayapal used her gavel to restore order, while Homan said, “That’s dishonesty. It’s pathetic and it’s sad.” Jayapal reminded Homan that in the past, he testified in support of Obama administration policies that were different from current policies, but when Homan asked if he could respond, Jayapal said no, as his time was up.
“Of course not,” Homan said.
Homan did get another chance to speak later on, however, and he used it to cast blame on Congress for problems at the border.
“Look, you want to know why there’s 50,000 people in detention? You want to know why there are a million illegal entries into the United States? You want to know why we have these issues? Because you have failed to secure the border,” Homan said. “You guys failed to work with this president to close the three loopholes we’ve asked for two years to close.”
Jayapal interrupted, informing Homan that once again, his time was up. He continued speaking over her, growing impatient and claiming that others were able to go over their time.
“I’ve asked you politely to let me go beyond my time, and you let other people go beyond their time, but not to Tom Homan!”
Jayapal slammed the gavel to silence Homan, only for him to say, “This is a circus.”
The exchange escalated from there, as Jayapal explained that one member of Congress was able to go beyond their time with the consent of the ranking member after a protester interrupted.
“Please respect the chair’s authority,” Jayapal said. As Homan began to respond, she slammed the gavel again and yelled, “Mr. Homan!”
“You work for me!” Homan fired back. “I’m a taxpayer. I’m a taxpayer, you work for me.”
Jayapal herself was called out for speaking out of turn at the end of the hearing. When she began delivering a statement before bringing the proceeding to a close, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., told her to end the hearing.
“I wish the committee chair right now would recognize the fact that she’s supposed to be calling this committee, there’s not five minutes extra,” Collins said.
Earlier in the hearing, Homan blasted Democrats including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for using Holocaust comparisons to smear border detention facilities and ICE agents.
“That comparison is 100 percent inaccurate and it’s disgusting,” Homan said. “Now forgive me, I didn’t think Nazi death camps had detention standards, I didn’t think they had health care, I didn’t think they had recreation, law libraries, visitation, three squares a day. It’s an insulting comparison.”
Homan said it is unfair for ICE to be vilified since its agents are only acting based on existing laws.
“Last hearing, I was called a racist and a bigot for enforcing laws that you enacted,” he said, referring to atense exchangehe had earlier this month with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “What does that make you? You wrote the law.”