Thomas Homan, the top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will retire in June, the agency confirmed Monday.
Homan called his decision to retire “bittersweet” in a written statement, and cited a need to spend more time with his family. “My family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to serve and it’s time for me to focus on them,” he said.
A career law enforcement official with more than three decades' experience, Homan was named acting director of the agency in late January 2017.
In the 15 months that followed, Homan frequently defended President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. He occasionally appeared at the podium of the White House daily briefing to defend the administration’s war against so-called sanctuary cities and the work of federal immigration officers.
The White House nominated Homan in November to become ICE director, but the nomination stalled due to fervent opposition from Senate Democrats.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last week, more than a dozen Senate Democrats demanded that the department turn over to the relevant committee documents related to Homan’s nomination. The letter also suggested Homan’s lengthy tenure as acting director might, under a law governing vacancies, disqualify him from assuming the position permanently.
Still, two sources close to the 56-year-old Homan said his decision to retire had been planned for months.
“His family was all ready for him to be retired and home last year,” said one former DHS official. “It is a great sacrifice for them.”
An ICE official dismissed the idea that Homan feared his confirmation bid would end in failure. “He’s obviously somebody who’s not shy about answering questions and getting up there and telling the ICE story,” the official said.
Nielsen said Homan told her earlier this year that he intended to retire, but that she asked him to remain to assist with the transition.
Homan plans to announce his retirement formally at an event in New York City on Monday night hosted by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, where he will be named law enforcement officer of the year.
Given Trump’s contentious immigration agenda, the road to confirmation for his replacement could be rocky.
The immediate chain of command would make Peter Edge, the top official at ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, a candidate for the acting role — but the aforementioned former DHS official said Edge also plans to retire in the near future.
Another possible replacement is Matthew Albence, the head of Enforcement and Removal Operations.