If We’re Stuck With ICE, Then Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Is Solid Choice To Lead It

Immigration

We've discussed the many positive changes at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security after President Joe Biden replaced the former White House squatter. Now Biden's announced a big change at the top: He's nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE, which hasn't had a permanent director since 2017. The former guy's party controlled the Senate, but he still preferred to have a revolving door of “acting" ICE directors during his horror show administration.

Gonzales was elected sheriff of Harris County (that's Houston) in 2016 and won re-election last year. Harris is the largest sheriff's office in Texas and the third-largest in the country. He'd previously risen to rank of sergeant during his 18 years with the Houston Police Department. He's been a consistent critic of President Klan Robe's grotesque immigration policies.

From the Texas Tribune:

In 2019, when Trump tweeted that his administration would be deporting "millions of illegal aliens," Gonzalez posted on Facebook that the "vast majority" of undocumented immigrants do not pose a threat to the U.S. and should not be deported.

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

Gonzalez also opposed so-called "anti-sanctuary city" legislation from 2017 that would prevent "cities from banning local law enforcement from asking about immigration status and would push civil fines and a misdemeanor offense on law enforcement who don't comply with federal immigration enforcement." So much for local control!

Before Gonzalez was elected sheriff, Harris County and ICE were bosom buddies. Officials were all in on ICE's Secure Communities program where immigration officials scanned the fingerprints of anyone arrested for anything to determine if they were in the country illegally. Harris County had also enrolled in the 287(g) program, which had sheriff's deputies searching county jails for people to deport. Regrettably, this was during the Obama administration. Gonzalez quickly yanked Harris County from that program in 2017.

He stood firm in his belief that the police should stick to preventing crime, which they do in theory, and ICE should enforce civil immigration laws.

"Diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from public safety threats would drive undocumented families further into the shadows & damage our community safety," he said in a 2019 tweet.

Gonzalez's positions align with both human decency and the Biden administration's new policy limiting ICE arrests to recent border crossers, people convicted of aggravated felonies, and clear national security threats (though Ted Cruz was allowed back from Cancun).

ICE currently employs 20,000 people worldwide and has a budget of $8 billion a year. It's also less popular than the Internal Revenue Service, according to a Pew Research Survey from last year.

Although many liberals have called for eliminating ICE outright, most Democratic presidential candidates during the 2020 primary supported restructuring the agency but keeping it intact. President Biden has already begun “retooling" ICE. These are all more benign terms than “abolish," which apparently makes moderates believe Democrats are instituting the dreaded “open borders," where just anyone can come and take over the joint. That's an exclusively American activity.

Community leaders in Harris are both excited and cautiously optimistic about Gonzalez's nomination.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted:

Congrats to my friend Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on being nominated to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Biden Administration. I'll be sad for him to leave us, but President Biden will gain a compassionate, thoughtful and courageous leader.

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia raved about Gonzalez's qualifications.

I think this is a great opportunity for so many to move the mission of immigration enforcement in a better direction. I think bringing a local law enforcement official — and not just any, but one who has a perspective on community engagement, smart policing, transparency and working with stakeholders — I think it's going to be a great day for the country.

With Republicans literally using “Biden Border Crisis" as the wi-fi password at their supervillain retreats, we can expect them to pitch a fit that Biden nominated someone to head ICE who's not on Stephen Miller's speed dial. Let 'em whine. Gonzalez just needs to make sure his tweets don't offend Joe Manchin.

[NBC News / NPR / Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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