President Biden on Tuesday nominated Ed Gonzalez, sheriff of Houston’s Harris County, to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2017. Gonzalez was elected sheriff in 2016, after 18 years with the Houston Police Department. He publicly criticized former President Donald Trump’s mass deportations and ICE raids on nonviolent immigrants, and he withdrew Harris County from a federal partnership that authorized sheriff’s deputies to enforce immigration laws. Gonzalez did honor ICE requests to hold suspects for up to 48 hours, as required under Texas law.
Harris County’s sheriff’s office is the third largest in the U.S., with a staff of 5,000. If confirmed by the Senate, Gonzalez will oversee more than 20,000 employees at an agency with an $8 billion budget and high-profile mandate. “Reaction to Gonzalez’s nomination was predictably more favorable among immigration advocates than opponents,” The Associated Press notes.
Biden has moved to reverse many but not all of Trump’s hardline immigration policies, including, on Tuesday, limiting ICE’s authority to arrest undocumented immigrants at courthouses. Trump in 2018 finalized a policy allowing ICE to routinely apprehend immigrants at federal, state, and local courthouses. Under the new policy, ICE will only be able to detain people if national security or public safety are at stake, plus a few other exceptions, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. The Biden administration also said it will focus on dismantling migrant smuggling networks.
Biden has also recently nominated Tucson, Arizona, police Chief Chris Mangus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Ur Jaddou, an immigration lawyer who worked in the Obama administration, as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.