President Biden’s nominee to be the next director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday he has pulled his name from consideration, delivering a blow to a Biden administration struggling to get a handle on its immigration policy.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who runs the Harris County, Texas, sheriff’s department, had been dogged by a court case allegation of domestic violence, though he didn’t mention that in his announcement on Twitter.
“I am grateful to President 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,” he said.
He remains Harris County sheriff.
ICE, which handles detention and deportation and arrests of illegal immigrants in the country’s interior as well as investigations into human trafficking and counterfeit goods, has been without a confirmed director since the end of the Obama administration.
The Senate never approved any of President Trump’s ICE picks, and now Mr. Biden’s first suggestion also has fallen.
Tae Johnson, a career ICE official, has been serving as acting director, though big policy decisions are being made by the White House and Department of Homeland Security, analysts said.
Sheriff Gonzalez had cleared a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but his nomination stalled after the domestic violence allegation, first reported in March by The Washington Times.
The allegation was raised in a police officer’s affidavit filed in a tangential sexual harassment lawsuit in Texas.
The officer said he responded to the Gonzalez residence, where the sheriff’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez, indicated her husband had become “physical or violent” with her when he learned she was having an affair with a supervisor.
Both the sheriff and Mrs. Gonzalez vehemently denied the allegation publicly and The Times has learned that a follow-up investigation by the Senate failed to turn up evidence. But with the Senate split 50-50 and some Democrats apparently still wavering, his nomination was in trouble.
The National ICE Council, the union for ICE officers, called the accusations just one of a series of issues with Sheriff Gonzalez.
“Sheriff Gonzalez shut down the ICE 287(g) program in his county, reportedly traveled to China in connection with the highly suspect EB-5 Visa Program, testified before Congress that he has concerns with taking enforcement actions against business owners, falsely told a Senate Committee that ICE officer whistleblower disclosures involving public safety threats weren’t credible, and entered the confirmation process with unresolved domestic violence allegations,” said Chris Crane, the council’s president.
The 287(g) program is a cooperative agreement between ICE and state and local police departments. Sheriff Gonzalez ended Harris County’s agreement.
He also said during his confirmation hearing that he didn’t believe ICE officers who said their hands were being tied by the Biden administration.
“We appreciate the Sheriff removing himself from consideration, as we don’t think it was the right fit,” Mr. Crane said.
Republicans had been skeptical of Sheriff Gonzalez’s nomination before the domestic violence allegation, pointing to comments he made questioning ICE’s mission.
But he also took heat from immigrant rights groups who said he was not sufficiently critical of ICE, an agency some activists have pushed to eliminate altogether.