Biden nominates a Latino sheriff to lead ICE, amid calls to abolish the agency
President Joe Biden nominated Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas’ Harris County to assume the position of ICE director.
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hasn’t had a formal director since Donald Trump’s administration assumed office. On April 27, President Joe Biden is picking up where his Democratic predecessor left off, by continuing ICE’s operations and has nominated someone to officially lead the notorious agency.
None of ICE’s directors in the past four years were ever confirmed in the U.S. Senate.
Biden nominated Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas’ Harris County to assume the position of ICE director.
There are many sides to his nomination.
First, Gonzalez is Latino and just the third (potential) ICE director in its 20-year-history.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Gonzalez also comes from a county situated relatively close to the Southern Border, a region that is deeply connected to Latinx and Mexican culture. Harris County itself has a Latino population second only to Los Angeles County.
The issue many immigration activists will have, especially at a time of increased police reckoning, is Gonzalez’ history as a law enforcement official. He’s served as sheriff of Harris County since 2017.
The White House says Harris County voters elected Gonzalez to a second term in 2020 when he earned the highest vote total of any candidate on the countywide ballot.
“The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is the largest Sheriff Office in the State of Texas, and the third-largest nationally,” a presser reads.
He began his law enforcement career as a civilian employee in the Houston Police Department, where he later became a police officer and rose to the rank of sergeant.
After serving 18 years, Gonzalez retired in 2009 to serve three terms on Houston’s City Council.
Gonzalez holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston Downtown, and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas.
A look at his past tweets and policies gives insight into how he may operate as ICE’s director if confirmed.
Gonzalez has been critical of ICE’s policies under the Trump administration, particularly in regards to ICE’s unannounced mass-roundups of undocumented immigrants, and family separation at the border.
In 2017, he ended a Harris County partnership with ICE that trained local deputies to identify the immigration status of suspects in jail to see if they are eligible for deportation.
A years-long tweet uncovered by immigration journalist Hamed Aleaziz gives more insight.
“I do not support #ICERaids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S. The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.
@HCSOTexas does not participate,” Gonzalez wrote in 2019.
But the overarching dilemma to Biden’s nominee, is the argument that the 20-year-old agency is unwanted. It’s ICE, and calls to abolish the agency aren’t subsiding.
“We don’t need a new ICE director. We need to #abolishICE. They didn’t exist 20 years ago. They don’t need to exist now,” wrote Raices Texas Chief Advocacy Officer Erika Andiola, in a tweet that has garnered the support of hundreds.
On day one, Biden’s administration attempted a 100-day deportation moratorium, but it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas. This did not stop the White House from moving forward with ICE’s reform. On Tuesday, the agency also announced it will stop arresting immigrants at courthouses unless they are a public safety threat.
If confirmed, Gonzalez is a step forward from the Steven Miller-era approach to immigration.
ICE, no matter how much reform it has faced under the Biden administration, will continue to be linked to its years-long wrongdoings, and Immigration advocates and the victims of ICE themselves will not forget for the sake of new leadership.