President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated the sheriff of one of the nation’s most populous counties to lead the agency that deports illegal immigrants, picking a seasoned law enforcement official who sharply criticized former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, whose jurisdiction includes the Houston metropolitan area, was nominated director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2017.
After his election in 2016, Gonzalez fulfilled a campaign promise to withdraw Harris County from a federal partnership that authorizes sheriff’s deputies to enforce immigration laws, ending an agreement that had been in place since 2008.
Such agreements grew from 35 to 150 during Trump’s presidency, with many of those additions in Texas and Florida.
At the time of the withdrawal, Gonzalez said his decision was financially motivated. Deputies trained under the program had to be reassigned to other law enforcement duties.
Under Gonzalez, who rose to sergeant during an 18-year career at the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office did not participate in ICE deportation raids.
“I do not support ICE raids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.,” he wrote on Twitter in July 2019.
“The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”
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.
— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) July 12, 2019
The nomination was announced shortly after ICE said it was limiting arrests at courthouses, replacing a Trump policy that gave immigration authorities wider latitude.
The Biden administration is expected to soon announce priorities and guidelines on whom to deport. They are certain to be narrower than those of Trump, who made all illegal aliens subject to removal.
Deportations have already fallen sharply under Biden’s watch.
There were 2,214 immigration arrests in March, down 67 percent from 6,679 in December, Trump’s last full month in office.
If confirmed, Gonzalez will oversee an agency with more than 20,000 employees and an annual budget of $8 billion.
It manages the world’s largest network of immigration jails and includes Homeland Security Investigations, which looks into a wide range of international crimes including money laundering, child pornography and human smuggling.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called on the Senate to quickly confirm Gonzalez.
“With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission,” Mayorkas said.
Biden recently announced two other nominations for key immigration positions in the Department of Homeland Security: Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson, Arizona, to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Ur Jaddou, an immigration lawyer who served in the Obama administration, for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Enforcement.