KEY POINTS

  • Gonzalez has a decades-long career in law enforcement
  • Gonzalez’s appointment comes amid a massive migrant surge in the U.S.
  • Secretary of Homeland Security calls for Gonzalez's swift confirmation

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, Texas, has been nominated by President Joe Biden as the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the White House announced on Tuesday. Gonzalez had been a staunch critic of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. His appointment comes as the US is witnessing a massive surge of migrants, including children, from Mexico and Central America crossing the border illegally.

Before Gonzalez’s appointment for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, Biden picked Tucson, Arizona, Police Chief Chris Magnus to head U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

According to his biography, Gonzalez is the 30th sheriff of Harris County and heads the largest sheriff office in the state of Texas, and the third-largest nationwide, with some 5,000 employees to look after the county’s 4.5 million residents. He was first elected in 2016 and then re-elected in 2020.

Trump mounted a hardline effort to halt illegal immigration, slash legal immigration and drive out undocumented immigrants Trump mounted a hardline effort to halt illegal immigration, slash legal immigration and drive out undocumented immigrants Photo: AFP / Luis ACOSTA

Gonzalez has a decades-long career in law enforcement. He spent 18 years with the Houston Police Department, initially as a civilian, then as an officer, and eventually rose to the rank of a sergeant. Described by the White House as a “lifelong Houstonian,” Gonzalez served three terms on the Houston City Council before stepping down from his seat to run for Harris County sheriff.

He has slammed the Trump administration for its policies on border and emergency management issues. After his election as the sheriff of Harris County in 2016, he had withdrawn his department from a controversial ICE program under which local police were authorized to enforce federal immigration laws in the county, AP reported.

In a 2019 social media post, Gonzalez criticized raids conducted by ICE, under Trump, across the country to detain thousands of migrant families who already had court orders to be removed. “I do not support ICE raids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.,” he had said.

The Biden administration is trying to solve the migrant surge with a humanitarian approach that was missing during Trump’s rule. It is currently grappling with the surge of migrants crossing illegally at the southern border. Migrant arrests there reached a 15-year high in March, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

According to new border patrol data cited by Al Jazeera earlier this month, more than 171,000 migrants were caught trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico in March. The number of arrests in March surpassed the pace of the surge in 2019 which peaked at 133,000 a month.

A Reuters report citing U.S. officials had earlier stated that the total of border apprehensions in March included about 19,000 unaccompanied migrant children and 53,000 family members traveling together, the initial figures stated. Single adults were around 99,000 of the total. So far, the Biden administration is working hard to find housing for unaccompanied children who have flooded border stations and processing centers for weeks.

"Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE Director…” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement and called for his swift confirmation in the Senate.