HOUSTON – President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated the sheriff of one of the nation’s most populous counties to lead the agency that deports people in the country illegally, picking a seasoned law enforcement official who sharply criticized Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, whose jurisdiction includes the Houston metropolitan area, was nominated director of U.S. 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 needed to be reassigned to other law enforcement duties.
Gonzalez, who rose to sergeant during an 18-year run at the Houston Police Department, pointedly criticized Trump’s policies when the then-president vowed to deport millions of people.
“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 Facebook in July 2019. “The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”
Gonzalez expressed concern then about driving “undocumented families further into the shadows,” discouraging them from reporting crimes to authorities.
The nomination was announced shortly after ICE said it was limiting arrests at courthouses, replacing a Trump policy that gave immigration authorities wider latitude.