The University of Pennsylvania canceled an immigration policy event Wednesday night due to loud, disruptive protests from members of the campus community who were offended by the participation of former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Homan was set to participate in the "Detention and Deportation from Obama to Trump" panel discussion with Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Tulante and former ICE Public Advocate Andrew Lorenzen-Strait from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
In the days leading up to the event, about 500 students and alumni signed a petition demanding the cancellation of the event, but the university stood by its intention to hold the event.
Shortly before the event was scheduled to begin, protesters showed up in and around the venue, chanting loudly. So loudly, in fact, that it became clear that no one in attendance would be able to hear anything the panelists said.
A school official tried to reason with the protesters by appealing to the First Amendment, but to no avail. So, with the participants sitting on the stage, the decision was made to cancel the event. Students cheered the announcements, and the panelists were escorted out of the building.
Homan, while he was sitting on stage, did not seem bothered by the situation. He was laughing and talking to the other panelists while they waited.
"Before the event even began, chanting by some members of the audience made it impossible to hold a constructive conversation. Perry World House communications director John Gans told The Daily Pennsylvanian. "Since our founding, Perry World House has been deeply engaged with the timely and sensitive issue of immigration. Members of the Penn community may disagree with a particular speaker at these events, but having conversations about those differences is part of what makes universities such as Penn essential locations for free inquiry, free expression, debate, and dialogue."
Homan served as ICE's executive associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations in the Obama administration, after having spent time as an New York Police Department officer and Border Patrol agent. He was named acting ICE director by President Donald Trump in 2017, and retired in 2018.
Homan has a reputation for taking a tough stance against illegal immigration and overseeing an increase in deportations in both the Obama and Trump administrations. He has defended the controversial zero-tolerance policy that resulted in some children being separated from their parents at the southern border.