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Thomas Homan, an immigration hardliner who oversaw deportations under President Barack Obama and was named acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement by President Donald Trump, will return to the Trump administration as "border czar," Trump said Friday.
"Tom Homan is coming back," Trump said during a sprawling interview by phone on Fox News. "He's going to be very much involved with the border. That's what he really wants to be involved with."
Trump said that Homan, who retired in June 2018, will in his new position report directly to the president and work out of the White House, though his job will require frequent visits to the U.S.-Mexico border. Homan did not respond to a request for comment.
Homan has a controversial reputation. Under his leadership, border arrests during the Obama administration surged. In 2016, The Washington Post began a profile of Homan: "Thomas Homan deports people. And he's really good at it."
On his LinkedIn page, Homan lists the removal of "more than 369.000 aliens from the United States including 216,000 criminal aliens" as one of his key achievements, as well as raising "public and community awareness about the issues of immigration and border security."
In 2017, Homan told Congress that undocumented immigrants "need to be worried" that his agency will arrest them. After the comment sparked pushback, Homan doubled down, telling CNN that those in the country illegally "should be afraid."
Later, he defended the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border, telling Fox News the month that he retired that "you'd have to put the blame on the parents."
Homan will join the administration amid what Trump has declared a crisis at the southern border. Official government statistics show the number of apprehensions at the border skyrocketing.
The situation has captivated the president's focus so fully that he threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican imports until the country could fix the problem. Earlier this month, the U.S. and Mexico announced that the tariffs will not go into effect as part of a deal in which Mexico agreed to deploy 6,000 national guard troops to stem migration through its territory.
Trump suggested on Friday that the measures Mexico was taking were already having an impact.
"Big difference in the border between now and this time last week," Trump said. "Mexico has been doing a terrific job. Hey, 6,000 soldiers. And if it doesn't work out, then we go back to very strong measures. And I don't want to have to do that."
Trump's announcement caught the hosts of Fox & Friends off guard. After leaving the Trump administration, Homan joined Fox News as a contributor.
"You'll go to Plan B," Steve Doocy, one of the show's co-hosts, said in response to Trump's threat of new measures against Mexico. "We will have to go to Plan B as well because Tom Homan is currently a Fox News contributor."
"We have him on the show tomorrow," said Brian Kilmeade, another co-host.
The announcement may also have surprised those in the White House.
"I would say that would be announced next week," Trump said of Homan's return. "Except I'd rather announce it now."