As President Donald Trump prepares for his first trip to California since taking office more than a year ago, the White House is lashing back at prominent Golden State politicians who've trained their fire on Trump's aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.
The acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — Thomas Homan — took aim Monday night at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for denouncing Trump's immigration policies as "cowardly" and for accusing immigration officers of terrorizing immigrants in California.
"How dare she say we’re terrorizing immigrant communities?" Homan said in a conference call the White House organized with reporters. "Our officers are protecting the immigrant community in many ways."
Pelosi has repeatedly declared Trump's enforcement efforts as "cowardly," invoking the term last year in response to a decision to end protections for Nicaraguan citizens who've been in the U.S. for a couple of decades, to immigration raids launched in California earlier this year and to a lawsuit the Trump administration filed last week challenging the constitutionality of three so-called "sanctuary" laws the state passed last year.
However, the immigration chief said Pelosi's remarks were an insult to his officers.
"You’re talking about law enforcement people that get up every day and leave the safety and security of their home and their families and strap a gun to their hip every day to defend this nation. That’s the farthest thing from cowards you’re ever going to see,” Homan said. “So, her quotes were just beyond the pale.”
Homan also faulted Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for criticizing ICE officers who are carrying out Congressional directives.
"If people don't like it, people like Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, they can change the law, they're legislators," he said.
Homan argued that by denying immigration officers access to local jails, local and state officials are endangering those officers and increasing the change that a wanted immigrant's family members and associates will be arrested in a raid carried out in the community. He also faulted Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) and others for denying ICE access to a California database tracking suspected gang members.
In another portion of the call, two Trump administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity accused sanctuary jurisdictions of bankrolling human smuggling operations by encouraging would-be illegal immigrants to believe they will face few consequences in the U.S. The federal officials also defended the use of immigration laws to detain anyone in the country illegally, regardless of their criminal history or ties to the United States.
"When we remove someone who's been here and has a U.S. citizen child, they're difficult cases, these are not easy cases for us," said one official. "You shouldn't get a pass just because you're able to hide well for ten years. And they know they're in the country and they choose to have a child in this country knowing it'll be a U.S. citizen by virtue of birth, they put themselves in that position. So, to vilify the men and women of ICE for enforcing the law and to execute a judge's orders that are lawfully given, it's just unfair to the men and women of ICE to put them in that position."
Trump also turned his attention to the immigration issue in advance of his trip, which is expected to include a stop to visit border wall prototypes being tested near San Diego. On Monday, he retweeted a message from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), urging that the federal government cut off funds to so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions.
"The president did say the omnibus should not fund the sanctuary cities," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said.
The administration is already seeking to block cities and states with so-called "sanctuary" policies from certain Justice Department and Homeland Security Department grant funds. Supreme Court ruling restrict the federal government's authority to tie other funding or all federal funding to such conditions.