Houston-area sheriff withdraws as candidate for ICE director

Immigration Agency Director

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston-area sheriff said Monday that he has withdrawn from consideration for Immigration and Customs Enforcement director.

President Joe Biden nominated Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to the ICE director's post in April 2021.

However, “more than a year has passed since the President nominated me for this important position, which has not had a Senate-confirmed director since the Obama administration,” Gonzalez said in social media postings.

Gonzalez, who is a Democrat, said he informed Biden administration officials of his decision Sunday.

“I arrived at this decision after prayerfully considering what’s best for our nation, my family, and the people of Harris County who elected me to serve a second term as sheriff,” he posted.

The Senate has not confirmed any nominee for the ICE directorship since 2017.

Gonzalez expressed gratitude to Biden “for the honor of nominating me, and I wish this administration well as it strives to overcome the paralyzing political gridlock that threatens far more than our nation’s border. Frankly, the dysfunction threatens America’s heart and soul.”

Gonzalez rose to sergeant during an 18-year run at the Houston Police Department before his 2016 election as sheriff. He pointedly criticized then-President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement raids and policies when Trump vowed to deport millions of people. He had expressed concern then about driving “undocumented families further into the shadows,” discouraging them from reporting crimes to authorities.

Backers of Trump immigration policies criticized Gonzalez as their staunch opponent who was part of the Biden administration’s rapidly expanding practice of releasing migrants on parole, particularly those who were not subject to a pandemic rule that prevents migrants from seeking asylum.

The Border Patrol paroled more than 207,000 migrants who crossed from Mexico from August through May, including 51,132 in May, a 28% increase from April, according to court records. In the previous seven months, it paroled only 11 migrants.

Parole shields migrants from deportation for a set period but provides little else. By law, the Homeland Security Department may parole migrants into the United States “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Parolees can apply for asylum within a year.