President Biden will appoint Ed Gonzalez, a Texas sheriff and critic of the Trump administration’s deportation policies, to lead immigration and customs enforcement, the White House said on Tuesday.
Mr Gonzalez is reportedly taking over an agency that has not had a permanent leader since 2017, even as the public increasingly monitored the enforcement of eviction policies. The Trump administration has walked through six leaders since 2017 and none have ever been confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Gonzalez was elected sheriff for Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, in 2016.
“With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well positioned to lead the ICE as the agency advances our mission of public safety and homeland security,” said Alejandro Mayorkas , the secretary of internal security. “I hope the Senate will quickly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical post.”
Mr Biden has vowed to reform the ICE, ordering the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, to prioritize the deportation of recent border workers, those who commit aggravated crimes or those who constitute a threat to national security. Former President Donald J. Trump gave officers ample leeway to deport any undocumented immigrant. Mr. Trump’s stance has prompted some Democrats to call for the agency to be abolished.
Mr Biden has resisted such demands, instead pledging to strengthen his enforcement powers. ICE agents will now have limits on the ability to stop undocumented immigrants in courthouses, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday.
Neither Mr. Gonzalez nor Chris Magnus, the candidate for head of customs and border protection, have ever worked in the Department of Homeland Security. Both officials, however, have publicly criticized the Trump administration’s immigration program, including the deportation raids.
Mr Gonzalez said the raids threatened to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, many of whom posed no immediate threat to the United States.
As Harris County Sheriff, Mr Gonzalez also withdrew in 2017 from a partnership with ICE that allows local police to track undocumented immigrants in county jails for deportation.
Mr Gonzalez, a former Houston city council member who served 18 years in the city’s police department, will also be tasked with unifying an sometimes-divided agency. Although the ICE is known to carry out deportations of undocumented immigrants, this work is mostly done by a single branch of the agency. The other, Homeland Security Investigations, conducts longer-term investigations into smuggling, terrorism and sex trafficking.