An event at the University of Pennsylvania featuring former Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan as a speaker was shut down by protesters before it even started last week.
Students chanted, “Go home, Homan,” and held signs that read, “Abolish ICE,” as Mr. Homan sat alongside former Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Tulante and former ICE Public Advocate Andrew Lorenzen-Strait on a panel called, “Detention and Deportation from Obama to Trump,” at the university’s Perry World House on Wednesday.
According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper, the speakers sat and watched the disruption for 15 minutes before an organizer finally announced that the event had been canceled.
“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 wrote in an email to the paper. “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,” he said.
A petition that circulated before the event demanded that the university rescind its invitation to Mr. Homan, who served under President Trump from January 2017 to June 2018.
“His presence contributes to a climate of xenophobia and hatefulness that negatively impacts our most vulnerable students,” the petition stated. “Penn cannot credibly champion diversity and inclusivity, nor can it ethically profit from the contributions of its immigrant community, while being ambivalent to the anti-immigrant animus Homan’s legacy embodies.”