President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will nominate
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, a vocal skeptic of cooperating with federal
immigration authorities in certain circumstances, to serve as director of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As head of ICE, Gonzalez would help oversee one of the most
contentious parts of Biden's agenda: enforcing U.S. immigration law. Biden has
promised to unwind much of predecessor Donald Trump's hardline border policies.
Gonzalez is a former Houston police officer who served on
the City Council before first getting elected sheriff in 2016. He won a second
four-year term in 2020. During his first term, he was a vocal critic of Trump's
approach to immigration.
n 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 proposed a threat to
the U.S. and should not be deported.
"The focus should always be on clear & immediate
safety threats,” he said.
And soon after taking office, Gonzalez ended a Harris County
partnership with ICE that trained 10 deputies to specifically screen jailed
individuals for immigration status and hold any selected for deportation.
According to the Houston Chronicle, cutting the program still meant Harris
County would hold inmates for deportation regardless of their charge, but only
if ICE officials themselves made the request. According to a 2020 report by
Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, ICE responded to the
program's cancelation by stationing nine ICE officers in the jail, who
continued to screen and detain Harris County residents.
The program ended in late February of 2017, but between Jan.
20 and May 4 of that year, the number of people transferred into ICE custody
from Harris County was 60% higher than it was for the same period in 2016.
TRAC, a federal agency research center run by Syracuse University, found that
Harris County received the most ICE immigration holds in both fiscal year 2018
and 2019, but it’s unclear how many resulted in deportations. The HILSC report
estimated that ICE physically deported 6,612 Harris County residents in 2018.
Gonzalez also vocally opposed 2017 legislation 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.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on State Affairs,
Gonzales opposed what supporters dubbed "anti-sanctuary city"
legislation, saying it would take public safety resources away from addressing
other local safety issues, such as human trafficking and murder.
“I am also 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.
Also on Tuesday, Biden said he was tapping another Texan,
Gina Ortiz Jones, to be under secretary of the Air Force. Jones is a former Air
Force intelligence officer who twice ran as a Democrat for one of Texas' most
competitive congressional districts.
Both positions are subject to confirmation by the U.S.
Jones would be the No. 2 civilian leader of the Air Force as
under secretary. Defense News, which first reported Biden's plan to nominate
Jones, a Filipino American, said she would be the first woman of color to serve
in the position.
Jones also is a member of the LGBT community and served in
the Air Force under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." After her time in the
Air Force, Jones went to work for the Defense Intelligence Agency and later the
office of the U.S. trade representative. She ran against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd,
R-Helotes, in 2018 and lost by less than 1,000 votes. She made a second bid for
the seat last year, when Hurd did not seek reelection, and lost by a wider
margin to Republican Tony Gonzales.
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