Senate panel advances Biden's ICE nominee

Senate panel advances Biden's ICE nominee
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President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE’s nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ed Gonzalez, advanced with a narrow party-line vote from a Senate panel Wednesday as Republicans continue to express concerns over his past comments about the agency.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee forwarded Gonzalez’s nomination in a tight 7-6 vote, with every Republican on the panel opposing his nomination. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWhite House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment MORE (R-Ky.) was not present but voted "no" by proxy.

Gonzalez currently serves as sheriff in Harris County, Texas, one of the largest sheriff's offices in the country, which includes shared oversight of Houston. 

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During his time there, he was a vocal critic of the Trump administration's immigration policy and in 2017 terminated his county’s agreement with ICE for local officers to carry out some immigration enforcement.

“While Sheriff Gonzalez committed to enforce our nation's immigration laws at his nomination hearing his history with ICE, both his statements and his actions regarding the agency he was nominated to lead are deeply concerning to me. One of his first actions as sheriff of Harris County was to end formal cooperation with ICE,” ranking member Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ohio) said at the business meeting.

“On numerous occasions during his time as sheriff, he criticized ICE and stated that he only worked with them because he was compelled to do so under Texas law, a law that he openly and vocally opposed while it was being debated in the Texas legislature,” Portman said.

When asked in his initial nomination hearing if he would terminate the program nationwide, Gonzalez said, “that would not be my intent.”

Gonzalez also defended his remarks, saying they were in reference to a Texas effort to force agreements with ICE, something he thought should be a matter of local control. 

​​”I made a thoughtful decision,” he said, noting the department was facing a budget deficit.

“I had to consider obviously the local realities as well and the importance of local law enforcement also working with a diverse immigrant community. I also wanted to make sure that we continued to remain focused on having the avenues necessary to arrest serious offenders in our community that impact our public safety," he added. "So ICE has always maintained a presence to this date inside our facility. We work in a coordinated manner when it comes to that. There's never been any issues. I've never declined a detainer.”