The White House announced Tuesday that President Biden is nominating as director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, Texas, a vocal critic of elements of former President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.
Gonzalez is the second such critic to be selected by Biden for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, following the nomination two weeks ago of Tucson, Ariz., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Gonzalez was elected sheriff of Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, in 2016 and reelected in 2020. It is the largest sheriff’s force in Texas and the third-largest in the nation with some 5,000 employees.
During his first term as sheriff Gonzalez ended a program with ICE that trained 10 Harris County deputies to determine the immigration status of prisoners, and hold for deportation those in the country illegally.
As sheriff he also opposed Texas legislation requiring local law enforcement to determine individuals’ immigration status, according to The Texas Tribune. The legislation was viewed as targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Gonzalez, like many in law enforcement, said the approach would destroy trust and make their job protecting communities more difficult.
“I am … 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 to state legislators.
The White House statement described Gonzalez as a lifelong Houstonian. He spent 18 years with the Houston Police Department, first as a civilian and then as an officer, rising to sergeant. Gonzalez went on to serve three terms on the Houston City Council before resigning his seat to run for Harris County sheriff.
The agency was led by acting directors during Trump’s term and continues to be at the center of the national debate over immigration enforcement. Known during the Trump years for large-scale roundups of people in the country illegally, under Biden it is shifting its focus to people who recently entered the country illegally, pose a security threat or have been convicted of serious crimes.