During a White House press briefing Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan said his agency would crack down forcefully on immigrant-friendly cities and on gang members who enter the country illegally. He did all this while standing between two television monitors showing photos of shirtless, tattooed men, whom he said were gang members.
“President Trump made a priority to get these criminals off our streets and when possible out of our country,” Homan said, emphasizing that that the ICE agency has already arrested 3,311 purported gang members since the beginning of the year when the president took office.
This week, the Trump administration made clear that it would prioritize the immigration enforcement of anyone affiliated with MS-13, a gang associated with brutal murders in the United States and in Central America. The gang originated in Los Angeles, California and has extensive networks in El Salvador.
As a show of force to combat MS-13, Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to El Salvador to discuss ways to eliminate the gang, while President Donald Trump will take to Long Island in New York on Friday, likely to double down on past statements about deporting the “bad hombres.”
What was notable about Homan’s remarks wasn’t necessarily what was said, but what was on the two television monitors behind him. Several photos show heavily-tattooed, shirtless individuals bearing MS-13 symbols that Homan then uses to connect to the need to deport criminal immigrants.
It may serve the Trump administration officials—and Trump’s base—to maintain the lie that undocumented immigrants are criminals, gang members, or “animals,” as Trump recently said. In reality, undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native born population. And immigration officials have detained immigrants with regular tattoos. Earlier this year, ICE officials detained Daniel Ramirez Medina, a so-called “DREAMer” brought to the country as a child, in part because of an alleged gang tattoo reading “La Paz BCS.” He has since said the tattoo stood for “peace in Spanish” and the capital of Baja California Sur in Mexico where he was born.