President Biden submitted to the Senate for the second time on Tuesday the nomination of Sheriff Ed Gonzalez 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.
Biden first announced the Harris County, Texas, sheriff as his pick to lead ICE in April. Because the Senate never voted on Gonzalez’s nomination, it expired at the end of the year.
It took the Senate eight months from the time of nomination to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus last month, giving the agency its first confirmed leader since 2019. The vote was 50-47, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) being the only Republican to vote with the chamber’s Democrats and Independents.
CBP had not had a Senate-confirmed commissioner since CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan assumed the duties of acting Homeland Security secretary and then resigned that fall. John Sanders only served in the acting commissioner role for fewer than three months before Mark Morgan was moved 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, served as acting commissioner in the Biden administration until Magnus’ confirmation. Miller is now CBP’s deputy commissioner.
Under the Trump administration, nine individuals served as acting director of ICE from periods lasting a matter of days to former Acting ICE Director Tom Homan’s service that lasted a year and a half.
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.
At his confirmation hearing in July, Gonzalez said he sees “many possibilities” to “move forward in a positive direction” in relationships with local law enforcement agencies as he doesn’t believe “one agency can work alone” in enforcing immigration laws with maintaining public safety as the priority.
“America has shown the world that it’s not only possible to survive but thrive as a nation that welcomes those seeking a new home and a better life through hard, honest work. We have proven that people from varied backgrounds cannot just coexist, but rally around common values and a shared dream of always doing better,” Gonzalez said at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing. “With that said, the American dream relies upon the rule of law and a functioning legal immigration system.”
“Public safety is always my North Star,” the nominee stressed when prodded by senators about what to do with undocumented migrants who have committed crimes.
“Part of the role of ICE is to conduct enforcement operations. I think that those, obviously, have to be prioritized when we’re considering limited operations and resources. I think that we do that every day,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of crimes on the books, but it’s a matter of trade-offs. It’s making sure that we’re focusing on the strategic approach that goes after those individuals that do pose the greatest danger to the integrity of our border, public safety, and national security.”
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will decide whether Gonzalez will undergo another confirmation hearing.