As the first director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who came up through the ranks, I have a clear understanding of what ICE’s congressionally-mandated mission is, how its staff perform their national security work, and the need for clear priorities regarding immigration enforcement.
There are many threats and attempts to make America less safe, less secure, and less free. The hostile rhetoric towards law enforcement in general is at peak highs. The movement to abolish and defund police has already resulted in unprecedented crime in our largest cities. This desire to reject law and order, open our borders to public safety threats and disease, and to tolerate rampant illegal immigration is an attack on our safety and security, not to mention our freedom.
The Biden administration has nominated the Sheriff of Harris County, Texas, Ed Gonzalez, as the next ICE Director. As someone who sat in that chair and as someone who enforced immigration law for nearly 35 years as a border patrol agent and an ICE special agent, I can say without hesitation that Gonzalez is the wrong guy for the job.
His policies and rhetoric demonstrate very clearly his opposition to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws as currently written and enacted. This administration has already hobbled ICE and drastically reduced its arrest authority, which has resulted in the lowest numbers of arrests and removals in the history of the agency. This administration attempts to ignore federal law and fails to enforce any meaningful immigration law either on the border or within our country. Based on his time as Harris County sheriff, Gonzalez has given every indication that he agrees with these policies.
Our border is also in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, with the number of border apprehensions at an all-time high — and that doesn’t count the illegal aliens who escape apprehension every day. Yet ICE has the lowest number of arrests in its history. This isn’t by accident, mismanagement, or incompetence: It is by design.
In the midst of the current border crisis and rise in crime across our country, ICE needs a strong and experienced leader at the helm. Gonzalez is neither of those things.
Just one month into office as Harris County sheriff, Gonzalez ended the county’s nine-year 287(g) partnership with ICE, which provided for the safe removal of criminal aliens from communities.
He was a strong opponent of SB4, which banned sanctuary cities in Texas and required local officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Gonzalez wrote op-eds in opposition; one can only imagine his policies on the ground.
When we fail to enforce the rule of law, criminal illegal aliens are undeterred from entering the country. The lack of border and immigration enforcement only drives more vulnerable people to put themselves at the mercy of criminal cartels, risking rape, robbery, and death.
This lack of enforcement results in continued human trafficking operations and drug smuggling, allowing drug cartels to make millions of dollars a day at the expense of our communities and taxpayers. Ending critical partnerships like 287(g) that are essential to keep communities safe was nothing more than a political move and showed total disregard for public safety and officer safety. Despite what Gonzalez has said in confirmation hearings, his actions indicate he does not believe in coordination of immigration enforcement to protect our nation from terrorists and drug smugglers.
Gonzalez running ICE would not only kill what little morale remains in ICE, but would render the agency inert, without actually disbanding it. His confirmation would mean there will be no meaningful enforcement of our nation’s immigration law, and that will result in more people coming illegally into the U.S.
The Senate should stand firm in favor of public servants who will restore our security and secure our borders.
Tom Homan is the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.