The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs advanced, for the second time, the nomination of Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The committee on Wednesday voted 7-4 along party lines to send the nomination to the Senate floor, paving the way for the Homeland Security immigration agency to have a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in more than five years.
Three additional Republicans voted against the nomination by proxy, but those votes are not counted in the official tally under committee rules.
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the committee’s top Republican, signaled his opposition to the nomination before the vote. He highlighted Gonzalez’s previous statements criticizing ICE and his decision as sheriff of Harris County, which includes Houston, to withdraw from a federal agreement to cooperate with the agency.
“Frankly, his history with ICE, both his statements and his actions regarding the agency he’s nominated to lead, are deeply concerning to me, and I think would be by the rank-and-file of members of ICE,” Portman said.
The Homeland Security committee previously considered Gonzalez to lead ICE in August, when it advanced his nomination by a party-line vote.
However, the nomination was never brought before the Senate floor for a vote, and it expired at the end of last year, requiring him to repeat the Senate process. Under chamber rules, nominations not confirmed by the end of a legislative session must be resubmitted to Congress by the White House. President Joe Biden resubmitted Gonzalez’s nomination last month.
Ahead of the August vote, panel Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., praised Gonzalez as a “proven leader and dedicated law enforcement professional” who has shown his “deep commitment to the rule of law.”
Gonzalez would be the first Senate-confirmed ICE director since the Obama administration. Under former President Donald Trump, the agency was led only by acting officials.
Last year, the Senate confirmed two of Biden’s other key immigration nominees: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur Jaddou and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus.
While uniformly opposed by Republicans, Gonzalez has also come under fire by immigrant advocates for comments he made during his confirmation hearing last year regarding local cooperation with ICE.
During that hearing, Gonzalez said he did not plan to terminate a controversial federal program known as 287(g) that facilitates collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement, despite having withdrawn his county from the program during his time as sheriff.