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Biden pick to lead ICE withdraws after domestic violence allegation

Ed Gonzalez, a sheriff in Texas, refers to 'paralyzing political gridlock' in his announcement about the decision

Ed Gonzalez, nominee to be director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing in July 2021.
Ed Gonzalez, nominee to be director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing in July 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced Monday he withdrew from consideration to be director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after his confirmation stalled amid questions from a Republican senator about a domestic violence allegation.

In a letter to President Joe Biden on Saturday, Gonzalez wrote he had concluded that ending his nomination to lead ICE — which has not had a Senate-confirmed director since the Obama administration —“is in the best interest of the nation we love.”

“I arrive at this difficult decision with the understanding that the challenges of preserving both the integrity of America’s borders and our country’s global standing as a beacon of light for those seeking freedom and opportunity have never been greater,” Gonzalez wrote in the letter, which was provided by the White House.

Gonzalez’s announcement, which he posted on Twitter on Monday evening, comes more than a year after the Harris County, Texas, sheriff was tapped to lead ICE, the agency in charge of arresting, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants found within the country.

Gonzalez seemed to direct one of his tweets at politics in Washington, where immigration remains among the most divisive issues.

“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,” Gonzalez tweeted. “Frankly, the dysfunction threatens America’s heart and soul.”

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted to advance his nomination in August. But his nomination was not brought for a vote on the Senate floor, forcing the administration to re-submit the nomination early this year.

The Homeland Security panel moved his nomination forward again in February.

But shortly before a scheduled confirmation vote on the Senate floor, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called for the nomination vote to be delayed. The senator cited a sworn affidavit from a Houston police officer, filed in an unrelated matter, claiming Gonzalez became “physical or violent” with his wife because of an extramarital affair.

The vote was postponed, even as the White House continued to stand by the nominee. The White House also provided a statement from Gonzalez’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez, denying the information.

“Any suggestion that I filed or made a complaint against my husband is false and defamatory,” she said. “To be clear, the assertions referenced in the affidavit, as they relate to me, my husband, or my marriage, are completely false.”

As recently as mid-May, Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Homeland Security committee, said the panel had looked into the allegations but was still “collecting documents.”

Gonzalez faced criticism from both Republicans and immigrant advocates during the nomination process, even before the domestic violence allegations were aired.

In February, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the committee’s top Republican, raised concerns about 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.

Immigrant advocates have also criticized Gonzalez for statements he made during his confirmation hearing last year that he would maintain a controversial federal program where local officials assist federal immigration agents.

Caroline Simon contributed to this report.

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