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Posted on: Thursday, 29 April 2021
Immigration attorneys, civil rights groups hopeful about Harris Co. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez nomination to lead ICE
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Gonzalez nomination to head ICE met with excitement, caution

FOX 26 Reporter Maria Salazar has more reaction as President Biden will nominate Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to head ICE.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez faces some major challenges should he be confirmed to lead the  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Ruby Powers, an immigration attorney in Houston and spokesperson for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was in a staff meeting when she heard the news of his nomination. She says it took a while for the news to sink in but describes it as "good news."

"I think that Sheriff Gonzalez is the right choice. I'll be sad to see him go from Houston as he's been a pillar in our community, but I think he'll serve us all well in this role and this is a good role for him," Powers told FOX 26. 

The hopes Gonzalez will steer the agency in the opposite direction of the Trump administration. 

"It'll be great to have somebody in this role that withdrew the [Harris County Sheriff's] Department's 287(g) agreement and was opposed to family seperation and has supported due process for asylum seekers," Powers added.

She's counting on Gonzalez take on the key challenges her clients have faced while in ICE detention.

"Lots of different challenges from what we saw with family separation a few years ago or to lack of communication with our clients or collecting documents," Powers noted. 

Other challenges include the treatment of detainees and length of stay in ICE facilities. She believes he can sent the tone even at facilities run by independent contractors

"He can help be a part of the that conversation from the top down. From who they have as contractors, how the protocols of those private contractors are supposed to work," Powers explained.

The ACLU is calling on the immediate shutdown of 39 ICE detention facilities in the U.S  Two of those facilities are in the Houston area: IAH Polk Detention Facility in Livingston and Montgomery Processing Center in Conroe.

These facilities fundamental disregard for the safety, the security, the dignity of those detained and so they need to be immediately shut down," said Kate Huddleston, attorney with ACLU of Texas. 

Huddleston also hopes, if confirmed, Gonzalez will re-examine some alternatives to mass detention of those in immigration proceedings. Huddleston is calling on the implementation of released supervision programs and sent the following statement:
ICE’s conditional supervision program, called ISAP (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program), relies on the use of electronic ankle monitors, biometric voice recognition software, unannounced home visits, employer verification, and in-person reporting to supervise participants. A government-contracted evaluation of this program reported a 99% attendance rate at all immigration court hearings and a 95% attendance rate at final hearings. U.S. Gov’t Accountability Office, GAO-15-26, Alternatives to Detention: Improved Data Collection and Analyses Needed to Better Assess Program Effectiveness 30 (Nov. 2014).

Huddleston believes Gonzalez must also disentangle federal immigration enforcement from local law enforcement beyond the end of the 287(g) program. 

"Ending the use of immigration detainers and secure communities which is a program where people who are arrested locally have their fingerprints shared wtih ICE," she explained. 

FOX 26 reached out to the National ICE Council, the union representing ICE officers, and have not heard back.

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