After picking a border-state police chief to be his nominee to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, President Biden today said he will nominate a border-state sheriff to be the next director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE, which is currently led by Acting Director Tae Johnson, did not have a Senate-confirmed director through the entire Trump administration. Sarah Saldaña, the last confirmed director, left on Jan. 20, 2017.
The White House said Biden will nominate Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE.
“We encourage the Senate to not only consider but confirm qualified nominees. We certainly consider him one of them,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today. “But the president looks forward to having someone in place in this position. And it certainly indicates a priority that we’ve put it out today.”
Gonzalez has led the third-largest sheriff’s office in the nation since 2017, and was elected to a second term in 2020. He began his law enforcement career with 18 years at the Houston Police Department, rising to the rank of sergeant, serving on the hostage negotiation team and as an investigator in the Homicide Division.
Gonzalez retired in 2009 and served three terms on the Houston City Council, being appointed Mayor Pro-Tem in 2012. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston Downtown and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas.
“Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE director,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission. I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”
During the Trump administration, Gonzalez spoke out against family separations at the border — “children should not be in immigration detention, period,” he tweeted in 2018 — and the previous year withdrew sheriff’s deputies from a training partnership with ICE due to what he said was an issue of resources.
“After thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to opt out of the voluntary 287(g) program,” Gonzalez said at the time. “We’ll still be cooperating with local, state and federal authorities as we always have, we just won’t have our manpower resources inside the jail doing that.”
When Trump tweeted warnings of a massive immigration sweep in 2019, Gonzalez tweeted, “Diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from public safety threats would drive undocumented families further into the shadows & damage our community safety. It silences witnesses & victims & world further worsen the challenges law enforcement officials face #ICEraids”
Two weeks ago, Biden nominated Police Chief Chris Magnus of Tucson, Ariz., to lead CBP. Magnus has previously served as a chief of police in Fargo, N.D., and Richmond, Calif. “In each of these cities Magnus developed a reputation as a progressive police leader who focused on relationship-building between the police and community, implementing evidence-based best practices, promoting reform, and insisting on police accountability,” the White House said, adding that “because of Tucson’s proximity to the border, he has extensive experience in addressing immigration issues.”
In a 2019 op-ed, Magnus argued against a sanctuary city ballot initiative, writing that his department has “one of the most rational, compassionate and comprehensive approaches to interacting with undocumented persons among states with similar laws” and that clamping down on relationships with federal law enforcement would “make our entire community, including our undocumented residents, far less safe.” Previously, he criticized the Trump administration’s campaign against cities it deemed to be sanctuary jurisdictions.
CBP has not had a Senate-confirmed commissioner since 2019, when CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan assumed the duties of acting Homeland Security secretary and then resigned that fall. John Sanders served in the acting commissioner role for fewer than three months before Mark Morgan was moved from ICE into the acting commissioner post and served in that capacity until the end of the Trump administration. Troy Miller, who served as director of field operations for CBP’s New York Field Office, has been serving as acting commissioner in the Biden administration.