Thomas Homan, acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said in an interview Tuesday that politicians in sanctuary cities should be charged with harboring and smuggling unauthorized immigrants.
He said he asked the Department of Justice to investigate if such jurisdictions violate federal law. He added that local officials should be made "personally accountable" for crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
"I think it's terrible. You've got the state of California that wants to put politics ahead of public safety, ahead of officer safety," Homan said. "What they've done is forced my officers to arrest dangerous criminals on their turf, in their homes and places of business, rather than arresting them in the safety and security of a county jail. It's ridiculous."
Homan referred to jurisdictions, such as California, that don't honor ICE requests to detain suspected illegal immigrants past their scheduled jail release dates. Not issued by judges, the ICE requests, known as detainers, are not legally binding documents.
Jurisdictions argue honoring ICE detainers violates inmates' Fourth Amendment rights through unlawful detainment. Officials often request ICE get court-ordered warrants to allow them to detain people lawfully. However ICE argues legal documents are not necessary.
Homan's remarks regarding arresting politicians drew immediate response from immigration and civil liberties advocates.
"It's outrageous that ICE acting director Tom Homan is threatening to prosecute state and local government officials for carrying out lawful sanctuary policies," American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Cecillia Wang said in a statement.
Multiple courts have ruled that the Constitution or federal law prohibits the Trump administration's efforts to intimidate states and localities into participating in draconian immigration enforcement tactics."
Homan also vowed to increase immigration enforcement in California. The state recently enacted a statewide "sanctuary" law limiting police cooperation with ICE and forbidding officers from asking people about their immigration statuses.
Homan ridiculed the state's governor, Jerry Brown, and threatened California saying it "better hold on tight."
"If he thinks he's protecting immigrant communities, he's doing quite the opposite because if he thinks ICE is going away, we're not," Homan said. "There's no sanctuary from federal law enforcement."