President Biden has nominated Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — a pick who opposed ICE raids to deport illegal immigrants during the Trump administration.
The White House announced Tuesday that Biden has nominated Gonzalez, who is currently the sheriff of Harris County, Texas, after being re-elected in 2020. Before that, he served 18 years with the Houston Police Department until 2009, where he was on a hostage negotiation team and in the homicide division. He went on to serve on the Houston City Council before becoming sheriff.
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As sheriff, he opposed operations by ICE to locate and deport illegal immigrants across the country. The raids, which picked up more than 2,000 illegal immigrants, were opposed by Democrats and many immigration activists.
“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.,” Gonzalez tweeted in July 2019. “The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”
Bloomberg News reported that he ended cooperation with a program to train law enforcement to identify the immigration status of those in police custody and turn them over to ICE. The program was scaled back during the Obama administration but encouraged by the Trump administration.
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The move is likely to be welcomed by immigration activists, who have called for the Biden administration to roll back the Trump-era approach that meant anyone in the country illegally could potentially be deported.
The Biden administration has sought to embrace a more radical approach to illegal immigrants, rejecting the term “illegal” to describe immigration status for the activist-preferred “undocumented,” while seeking to impose a 100-day deportation moratorium on the agency.
That moratorium was blocked by a judge in response to a Texas lawsuit. But since then, ICE has issued more guidance — which limits the enforcement priorities of the agency — and arrests have plummeted.
If confirmed, Gonzalez would be the first confirmed ICE director in years, after the Trump administration went through a number of directors who served only in an acting capacity.
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It is unclear how much pushback Gonzalez will get from Republicans, but immigration hawks were already demanding Republicans vote against him minutes after his nomination was announced.
“ICE exists to enforce immigration laws in the interior of the country. Nominating someone who will prevent the agency from doing its job at a critical time not only threatens public safety, but incentivizes wayward employers to hire illegal aliens,” RJ Hauman, head of government relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said in a statement. “Any senator who votes to confirm Ed Gonzalez should be voted out of office.”