Texas sheriff who attacked Trump immigration policies to head up ICE under Biden

If nominated, sheriff will be first confirmed head of the organisation since 2017

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 28 April 2021 21:24
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FILE - In this June 8, 2017, file photo, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez leaves a news conference, in Houston. President Joe Biden has nominated Gonzalez, a sheriff of one of the nation's most populous counties, to lead the agency that deports people in the country illegally. Gonzalez is Biden's pick for director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2017. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)
FILE - In this June 8, 2017, file photo, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez leaves a news conference, in Houston. President Joe Biden has nominated Gonzalez, a sheriff of one of the nation's most populous counties, to lead the agency that deports people in the country illegally. Gonzalez is Biden's pick for director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2017. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)
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Joe Biden has nominated Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – a vocal critic of Donald Trump's policies – to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Mr Gonzalez, an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, took a hard line against Mr Trump's immigration policies, pulling his department out of a federal partnership that tasked deputies with immigration enforcement authorities following his election to the office in 2016.

The sheriff said that the decision was financial, explaining that he needed his deputies available to carry out other law enforcement duties apart from immigration enforcement.

Despite justifying the move as a financial one, Mr Gonzalez was not coy when it came to his views on Mr Trump's immigration policies.

“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.,” Mr Gonzalez wrote on Facebook in July 2019. “The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”

He said he was worried that aggressive and hardline immigration enforcement would drive “undocumented families further into the shadows”.

Mr Biden announced his nomination on Tuesday. If successful, Mr Gonzalez will become the first confirmed leader of ICE since 2017.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the Senate to quickly confirm Mr Gonzalez for the role.

If confirmed, he will oversee the 20,000 member strong federal agency that controls an $8bn annual budget.

In addition to immigration enforcement, ICE also manages the largest network of immigration jails on the planet, and also oversees Homeland Security Investigations, which tackles crimes a broad scope of international crimes, like child pornography, human trafficking, and money laundering.

The organisation's policies have already shifted under Mr Biden's leadership.

Shortly before the nomination announcement, ICE announced it would limit courthouse arrests – a practice that discouraged undocumented individuals from attending court hearings – in accordance with Mr Biden's immigration goals.

The Biden administration is expected to announce its immigration goals and guidelines in coming weeks.

Deportations under Mr Biden's tenure have declined substantially. In March, deportations decreased 67 per cent, from 6.679 in December – Mr Trump's last full month in office – to 2,214.

Mr Biden also announced two other nominations for major immigration-related positions in the Homeland Security Department.

The president nominated Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson, Arizona, to head U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Ur Jaddou, an immigration lawyer formerly serving in the Obama administration, for US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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