President Joe Biden has nominated Democratic Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to be the next director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement within Homeland Security, the White House announced.
A lifelong Houstonian, Gonzalez has served as the 30th sheriff of Harris County, since Jan. 1, 2017. He was re-elected to a second term in 2020 to oversee the largest sheriff’s office in Texas, and the third largest nationally. As sheriff, he is responsible for oversight of 5,000 employees and the safety of 4.5 million residents who live in a 1,700 square mile area.
A veteran of the police force, Gonzalez is also a former Houston City Council member and former vice mayor pro-tem and mayor pro-tem.
His nomination comes in the wake of the Biden administration reversing Trump-era immigration policies, including opening the border while also halting long-standing legal processes for entry.
The state of Texas has sued the Biden administration five times over its immigration policy. In the first case, a federal judge blocked an order issued by Biden attempting to halt deportations for 100 days.
Despite the judge’s ruling, the administration continues to limit arrests and deportations of individuals illegally entering the U.S. It has also expanded its catch and release/bus program through which individuals are processed by Border Patrol in detention facilities and released into the general public.
The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that federal immigration officers would limit immigration arrests in or near courthouses, reversing a previous policy that expanded such arrests.
It also announced a new operation aimed at identifying migrant smugglers and targeting their activities by revoking travel documents, suspending trade entities, and freezing financial assets.
Gonzalez, who made national headlines in 2019 for openly opposing former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, would direct these policies.
In a July 2019 Facebook post, Gonzalez said he opposed sweeping immigration raids in response to a tweet posted by Trump saying that ICE would be deporting “millions of illegal aliens.” Gonzalez said, “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. The focus should always be on clear and immediate safety threats.”
Two years prior, Gonzalez ended Harris County’s participation in a program that facilitated cooperation between county law enforcement officials and federal immigration authorities. Many criticized the move, arguing Gonzalez had turned Harris County into a “sanctuary city” for immigrants in the country illegally.
Doing so has only resulted in more crime, critics argue, and now Houston – and Texas – have seen even more increased crime resulting from Biden’s immigration policies, Gov. Greg Abbott and others in law enforcement argue.
In the month of March alone, the Texas Department of Public Safety made 598 criminal arrests and 16,000 referrals to U.S. Border Patrol. Many being arrested are known criminals, sex-offenders, and gang members, Abbott said.
Biden’s border policies “have created an open season for human traffickers, for drug smugglers, for drug cartels and gangs,” Abbott said.
“These criminals are preying upon women and children exposing them to abuse and to terror,” he added. “Because the federal government is failing to respond to these dangers,” Abbott created Operation Lone Star in March. The operation involves DPS, Texas Rangers, the Texas National Guard, and other members of law enforcement working to halt human and drug smuggling operations. Despite this, roughly 1,000 individuals evade capture daily in Texas, Border Patrol estimates.
Gonzalez and others recently nominated for national security posts must be approved by the U.S. Senate.