Houston-Area Sheriff Nominated To Run Ice Faces Senate Confirmation Hearing Thursday

President Biden’s nominee to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will appear for a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, marking the first opportunity for lawmakers to question him publicly about his past criticism of the agency.

Harris County, Tex., Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is scheduled to testify at 10:15 a.m. before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Gonzalez runs the third-largest sheriff’s department in the United States, based in Houston, where immigrants make up nearly 30 percent of the population.

If confirmed, he would be the first Senate-approved ICE director since the Obama administration.

Gonzalez is a career law enforcement officer who has distanced his sheriff’s office from civil immigration enforcement. In 2017, he withdrew his agency from a voluntary program that helps ICE find immigrants inside county jails who are accused of crimes and also eligible for deportation.

ICE officials have long insisted that they try to arrest immigrants inside jails, in keeping with their mission to target public-safety threats. Officials say it is safer for everyone if they take custody of people in secure locations, instead of searching for them on the street.

But ICE has also been criticized for detaining immigrants who were first taken into custody on traffic violations or other minor offenses, upending communities like Houston where many undocumented immigrants are raising families, working and going to school. Hundreds of county and local governments, known as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, have limited their cooperation with the agency.

Gonzalez has tweeted that diverting law enforcement to pursue anyone but a public-safety threat “silences witnesses & victims” by making unauthorized immigrants afraid to report crimes.

“I do not support #ICERaids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.,” Gonzalez said in a tweet in July 2019. “The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”

By Maria Sacchetti for THE WASHINGTON POST
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