First of all, congratulations to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on his appointment by the Biden administration to the position of Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
I met Ed while he helped get Adrian Garcia elected Sheriff back in 2008 and then rooted him on when he ran for City Council District H to take over where Garcia left off. Intelligent, compassionate, and responsive are a few good words to describe him. All-around good guy is probably the better descriptor. Professionally, I’d expect him to do a great job in pretty much any capacity.
That said, ICE has had a lot of problems since way before Trump made it worse. It had problems during the Obama era, too. It is a relatively new agency created after the racism and bigotry that came about post-9/11. No one on either side in DC seems to want to get rid of ICE or the detention boondoggles that come from it. Reminder: While President Biden has banned private prisons in the Bureau of Prisons, he didn’t budge at all on immigrant warehousing and remains steadfast in warehousing children–just through another department.
Whether one points to ICE, or anything under ICE, like the Border Patrol, these agencies were created from racist sentiment and their practices are continually just as racist. It’s easy to say that structural change is needed, and that the culture of these agencies must be changed; however, no one person can do that without really taking a wrecking ball to the entire agency and creating something better. Simply changing a policy here and there will not rid the agency of its racist and corrupt practices. That’s why we say #AbolishICE.
Well, it is obvious that President Biden does not have this in the plan and Democrats are too damn squeamish to do anything about it. Unfortunately, that means Ed Gonzalez will be receive the brunt of criticism from both sides of the issue–those who desire change and compassion versus those who want to round-up and warehouse anyone brown or foreign with impunity and for profit. The centrists will argue for something in-between, but they aren’t the people who have been historically abused and targeted by ICE. The rest of us will just hope for the best and know that whatever happens, it is Joe Biden who is in charge.
And, with this said, a recent article regarding the Biden administration’s upcoming review of the extremist threat within Homeland Security (which includes ICE) gives some hope, as long as it is an honest and thorough assessment. Or, as DHS Secretary Mayorkas stated, “As we work to safeguard the nation and our values, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization. Violent extremism has no place at DHS and we will work with urgency and focus to address it.”
Detention Watch Network said it best in regards to Gonzalez’s appointment:
“People uniting for the rights and dignity of immigrants will soon have a new face to direct demands to at ICE, which include:
- Releasing people from immigration detention halting deportations (including Title 42 expulsions) amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the interest of the health of those detained and the public.
- Closing detention facilities, including immediately ending all contracts with private prison corporations and state and local governments as a first step towards ending the harmful detention system entirely.
- Adopting generous prosecutorial discretion guidelines in order to protect as many people as possible from detention and deportation.
- Ending state and local entanglement with immigration enforcement, reducing the pipeline to detention and deportation.
“Under Gonzalez’s leadership, we are eager to see immediate shifts in ICE’s culture and operations. During the Trump era the agency saw a constant revolving door of short-lived, draconian leadership that double-downed on cruel and punitive enforcement practices. If confirmed, Gonzalez must hit the ground running to meet immigrant rights advocates’ demands and peel back the layers of secrecy that have created a deadly culture of impunity at the agency, where accountability is evaded at every turn.”
“And while we are looking for transformative culture change at ICE, we know that the racist underpinnings of ICE will continue regardless of who’s in charge. Ultimately, ICE’s premise for existing is rooted in white supremacy, rendering the agency rotten to its core. ICE needs to be abolished.”
Houston organizing group, FIEL, had this to say:
We have worked with Sheriff Gonzalez for a number of years and what we can attest to is the fact that he has been and continues to be a man who listens to and takes input from the community. We understand that the role he is about to undertake is a huge and controversial role and we wish him well in this endeavour. However we have some things we would not like to see again such as massive raids, lack of prosecutorial discretion and continued separation of hard working families. Some of the things that we hope to see in policy changes would be: 1. We would like a more just and uniform application of prosecutorial/administrative relief. 2. No more massive raids which send a shockwave of fear into our communities destroying community and government relations. 3. A definite end to the 287G program and Secure Communities which are policies that Sheriff Gonzalez understands hurt communities. 4. Treat people more humanely by suspending the use of ankle monitors for people who do not pose a flight risk. 5. Ending the ‘Collateral Damage’ policy when it comes to ICE enforcement in our communities. We are hopeful for a more positive future for ICE and at the end that we will see the agency’s power diminish as we move forward on immigration reform.FIEL Press Release 4/27/2021
Obviously, when someone you know “makes it,” you can’t help but be excited for that person. ICE, though, is one of those agencies whose history reeks of hate, racism, corruption and more. While the leadership of the agency under Biden may say one thing, it is the rank and file and their bigoted Border Patrol union and associated groups that get more attention from the media and add to the bigotry already promoted by the Republican Party and white supremacists, thus roadblocking any change that is proposed. It is my hope that Director(-designate) Gonzalez is able to change the culture of the organization to one that is more compassionate in the realm of migration and that controls its messaging from the top. It is long past due that migrants be treated with compassion–in policy and rhetoric–rather than criminalized and hunted by the largest police force in the country.
Best of luck to Ed Gonzalez.