SAN ANTONIO — A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief says the agency needs to steal a page from the Obama administration and go after Central American migrants who illegally enter the country, but skip out on court hearings where their asylum claims were denied by immigration judges.

Otherwise, the surge of unauthorized immigration will continue, said Tom Homan, who led ICE as acting director during President Trump’s first 18 months in office. Homan, speaking this week at the Border Expo conference in San Antonio, Texas, said he has “no faith” Congress will give ICE additional funding to house families.

Without money to boost contracts for food, shelter, and medical services, the number of migrants coming to the U.S. will continue to grow, unless the Department of Homeland of Security takes matters into its own hands.

“ICE needs to, in my opinion — and I did this three and a half years ago — these family units and single adults that enter this country illegally, we need to locate those people, arrest them, detain them, and remove them. Because if these final orders issued by a federal judge don't mean anything, they’re not executed, then there's no integrity in the entire [court] system,” Homan told the Washington Examiner. “Just open up the entire border.”

Homan pointed to a double standard in the system where some migrants seeking asylum will accept a federal judge’s decision granting it, but then fail to honor a denial and will not leave the country or show up to court.

When tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico began arriving at the southern border in 2015, Obama administration officials launched a nationwide operation to remove a small portion of those ignoring asylum denials.

Homan said the point of the operation was for people in Central America to see those they knew being returned so others who thought about traveling to the U.S. would think twice because overstayers were being repatriated. Around 100 family members whose asylum requests had been denied but had not showed up in court were tracked down and removed.

[Also read: Life after ICE: Immigration honcho Tom Homan is retired, but not quiet about border concerns]

The Obama administration only went after a small percentage of people, but Homan said internal ICE data and reports that he saw at the time indicated it "sent a strong signal” to people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

“That had a tremendous impact and the border crossings went down because we clearly showed we’re a nation of laws, and once you have your due process, you can go back home,” he said.

In 2015, a court ruling in the Flores settlement agreement stated people could not be held indefinitely as their asylum applications were pending and had to be released from federal custody after 20 days.

That’s one of the three items Homan, now a Fox News contributor, said need to be changed.

During the unaccompanied minor spike in mid-2014, ICE built a family housing center in Artesia, N.M., and was able to resolve most cases within 45 days. He said the courts determined most were not victims of involuntary trafficking or legitimately in need of asylum, and flew them home afterward.

In the present day, with nearly 1 million cases waiting to be decided by immigration judges on the southern border, the average asylum seeker will not get his or her day in court for two to five years.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in 2018 that 4 in 5 asylum seekers from Central America would not be granted asylum because they did not meet the criteria.

Homan’s solution includes revisions to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which requires children from countries other than Canada and Mexico who arrive at a U.S. border without a parent or guardian to avoid immediate removal.

“It [TVPRA] had good intentions — basically said we’re going to make sure these children, if they’re victims of trafficking, are going to be taken care of,” he said. “But if you’re from Mexico and you enter and you’re not a victim, we can immediately remove that child. However, if you’re from Central America … they have a whole immigration process that children from Mexico do not, and they know that. And that’s why these children are coming across in such large numbers."