Trump Appoints Fierce Loyalist to Top Border Post

Trump Appoints Fierce Loyalist to Top Border Post

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Friday that he planned to appoint Thomas D. Homan, his former acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a fierce supporter of his policies during frequent appearances on Fox News, to oversee border policy in the White House.

“He’ll be a border czar,” Mr. Trump said during a phone interview on “Fox and Friends.” “He’ll be very much involved in the border. He’ll be reporting directly to me. He’ll be probably working out of the White House but spending a lot of time at the border. And he’s a good man. He’s a good man.”

The appointment puts a hard-line immigration loyalist in a vaguely defined position as Mr. Trump has expressed deep frustration and anger at his own officials for refusing to enforce his aggressive demands aimed at shutting down the flow of immigrants.

In April, Mr. Trump fired Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of homeland security after she repeatedly resisted his push to shut down the border and refuse asylum seekers entry into the United States. The president also pushed out several other top officials, including the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — Mr. Homan’s former job — in a purge of his top officials.

Kevin K. McAleenan, the former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, took over as the acting secretary of homeland security, but Mr. Trump has not nominated him to run the department permanently. Mr. Homan’s appointment is likely to undercut Mr. McAleenan’s traditional role as the top official responsible for securing the border.

In the two months Mr. McAleenan has been acting secretary, Mr. Trump has inserted three immigration hard-liners into his jurisdiction. Last month, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who once advocated an end to birthright citizenship, was tapped to lead United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mr. Trump also named Mark Morgan, who made numerous appearances on Fox News praising the president’s policies, as the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the appearance on Fox, Mr. Trump said he was still not sure whether he would nominate Mr. McAleenan to permanently lead the Department of Homeland Security.

“McAleenan, he is doing a very nice job. We’re going to see,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ve got to get used to him. Because it’s a very important thing to me, the border. We need strong people at the border.”

Mr. Homan fits that description: Burly and blunt-spoken, he comes across on television as the former police officer that he is, focused exclusively on the need to be tough when it comes to keeping immigrants out of the country.

It is unclear specifically what role Mr. Homan will play in developing and carrying out the president’s border policies at the White House. Stephen Miller, the president’s senior adviser and the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, remains the most important adviser on the issue.

A veteran of the Border Patrol who rose through the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement before Mr. Trump named him acting director of the agency in 2017, Mr. Homan retired last year when his nomination for the permanent post stalled in the Senate.

But since then, he has been a vocal defender of the administration’s most controversial efforts to prevent what the president calls an “invasion” of immigrants crossing the southwestern border.

Mr. Homan supported the president’s separation of families, backed Mr. Trump’s demand for a border wall, pushed for faster deportations of undocumented immigrants, endorsed the declaration of a national emergency and broadly praised Mr. Trump’s tough messaging about the dangers of immigrants.

Those positions earned him the enmity of Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates, who accused him of backing a xenophobic immigration agenda and violating the basic human rights of immigrants who have not broken any laws since illegally crossing the border.

But Mr. Homan’s decision to become a vocal advocate for the president on Fox News endeared him even further to Mr. Trump, who said on Friday that he had initially planned to announce the appointment next week.

“Except I would rather announce it now,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s going to be very much involved with the border. That’s what he really wants to be involved with.”

Mr. Homan did not respond to a request for an interview Friday morning.

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