Biden picks anti-deportation Texas sheriff for ICE director

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Joe Biden will nominate Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to be the next director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Gonzalez is known for his opposition to Trump administration immigration policies. As sheriff, he opposed local law enforcement cooperation with ICE, ICE raids, and deportations. As head of ICE, he will oversee the enforcement of immigration law.

Gonzalez is a former Houston police officer and member of the Houston City Council. He was elected sheriff in 2016 and won re-election in 2020. During his first term as sheriff, Gonzalez was a vocal critic of Trump’s approach to illegal immigration. When first elected as sheriff, Gonzalez eliminated a Harris County partnership with ICE. The program trained deputies to screen individuals for immigration status and detain violators for ICE. He opposes ICE raids at workplaces.

In 2019, when Trump announced that his administration would deport “millions” of illegal immigrants, Gonzalez responded on social media by stating that the “vast majority” of them do not pose a threat to Americans and should not be deported.

“The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats,” he said.

And soon after taking office, Gonzalez ended a Harris County partnership with ICE that trained 10 deputies to specifically screen jailed individuals for immigration status and hold any selected for deportation. According to the Houston Chronicle, cutting the program still meant Harris County would hold inmates for deportation regardless of their charge, but only if ICE officials themselves made the request. According to a 2020 report by Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, ICE responded to the program’s cancelation by stationing nine ICE officers in the jail, who continued to screen and detain Harris County residents.

The program ended in late February of 2017, but between Jan. 20 and May 4 of that year, the number of people transferred into ICE custody from Harris County was 60% higher than it was for the same period in 2016. TRAC, a federal agency research center run by Syracuse University, found that Harris County received the most ICE immigration holds in both fiscal year 2018 and 2019, but it’s unclear how many resulted in deportations. The HILSC report estimated that ICE physically deported 6,612 Harris County residents in 2018.

The nomination of Gonzalez is a continuation of Biden’s short-sighted and aggressive determination to undo Trump’s border policies. Gonzalez’s approach to holding illegal immigrants accountable is very much in line with Biden’s approach. Neither support ICE arrests made at courthouses. Isn’t an illegal immigrant showing up for a court date a perfect spot to place him/her in custody? Gonzalez uses the strawman used for many years by supporters of open borders – that trust would be broken between the illegal immigrant community and local law enforcement.

Gonzalez publicly opposed anti-sanctuary city legislation in 2017. He sent a letter to the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs opposing the legislation before the committee. He sounds more concerned about the relationship between law enforcement and illegal immigrants in the community than law-abiding citizens.

In a letter to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, Gonzales opposed what supporters dubbed “anti-sanctuary city” legislation, saying it would take public safety resources away from addressing other local safety issues, such as human trafficking and murder.

“I am also concerned about the risk of an unintended consequence: creating a climate of fear and suspicion that could damage our efforts to reinforce trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” he wrote.

Gonzalez does not support workplace raids by ICE, as the Trump administration briefly conducted in 2019. He turned to social media to make his opposition public.

We can assume that there will be no programs between ICE and local law enforcement, as Gonzalez put a stop to such a program in Harris County that was in place during the Obama and Trump administrations. He is simpatico with Biden in a more radical approach to illegal immigration. Neither wants to offend those who illegally enter the country and expect to be able to stay without consequences. Isn’t fear of legal consequences supposed to be a deterrent to illegal immigration?

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, an immigrant herself, congratulated her colleague when Biden’s intention to nominate Gonzalez became known. Hidalgo is busy trying to turn Harris County (Houston) into a socialist utopian dream.

FIEL, an activist group that advocates for immigrants, is cautiously optimistic about the nomination. It has a wish list of changes ready for Gonzalez.

“We have worked with Sheriff Gonzalez for a number of years and what we can attest to is the fact that he has been and continues to be a man who listens to and takes input from the community,” said FIEL Executive Director Cesar Espinosa. “We understand that the role he is about to undertake is a huge and controversial role and we wish him well in this endeavour. However, we have some things we would not like to see again, such as massive raids, lack of prosecutorial discretion and continued separation of hard-working families.”

“1. We would like a more just and uniform application of prosecutorial/administrative relief. 2. No more massive raids which send a shockwave of fear into our communities destroying community and government relations. 3. A definite end to the 287G program and secure communities which are policies that Sheriff Gonzalez understands hurt communities. 4. Treat people more humanely by suspending the use of ankle monitors for people who do not pose a flight risk. 5. Ending the ‘Collateral Damage’ policy when it comes to ICE enforcement in our communities. We are hopeful for a more positive future for ICE and at the end that we will see the agency’s power diminish as we move forward on immigration reform,” the statement read.

Gonzalez must be confirmed by the Senate. Republicans should be leading the charge that he embraces Biden’s open border policies and will accelerate their implementation. He will turn a blind eye to those in this country illegally and justify it by claiming that non-violent migrants should be allowed to stay.

He will have his hands full when he takes command of ICE if confirmed by the Senate. There is a record amount of illegal migrants crossing the border, thanks to Joe Biden. We’ll see how Gonzalez’s tenure works out.