Meet the Sheriff and Police Chief Tapped to Lead ICE and Border Patrol

WASHINGTON — Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Harris County, in Texas, made ending a partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement considered one of his first choices on the job as a result of, he stated, the program inspired “illegal racial profiling.”

Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Ariz., has taken pleasure in his metropolis’s boast of “being welcoming to immigrants.” It can also be house to considered one of the busiest sectors of the Border Patrol, an company that’s hardly ever praised for its hospitality.

The two males have been tapped to run the federal authorities’s immigration enforcement companies, an abrupt shift from rough-justice immigration chiefs in the Trump administration. If they’re confirmed by the Senate — Sheriff Gonzalez at ICE and Chief Magnus at Customs and Border Protection — they’d be liable for delivering on President Biden’s promise to return compassion to the immigration system after the roundups, zero tolerance, wall-building and household separations of the final administration.

Sheriff Gonzalez’s affirmation listening to, earlier than the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is about for Thursday. A listening to for Chief Magnus has not but been scheduled. But in a reminder of how charged the immigration subject has already turn into for Mr. Biden, Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, stated Tuesday that he had positioned a maintain on each nominations till “we can actually get the Biden administration to lay out what their policy is going to be, and what they’re going to do to be able to actually enforce the law” relating to immigration.

The native regulation enforcement backgrounds of the nominees would deliver a brand new perspective as Americans demand adjustments in how the police deal with communities of colour. But it may additionally turn into their best problem, as Sheriff Gonzalez and Chief Magnus attempt to achieve the belief of companies they’ve interacted with as distinct outsiders. Local regulation enforcement leaders have a tendency to see working with their communities as a paramount accountability. Federal regulation enforcement has hardly ever operated that method.

“The job of local law enforcement is pretty significantly different from the role that these immigration enforcement policing agencies play, in part because there’s no way to build trust between ICE and C.B.P. and immigrant communities,” stated Shaina Aber, the deputy director of the Center on Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York. ICE and the Border Patrol, she added, “really start with this kind of specious notion of immigrant guilt.”

Within the ranks of immigration regulation enforcement, officers are already cautious. Brandon Judd, the president of the Border Patrol union, urged that Chief Magnus, who loudly criticized the Trump administration’s insurance policies, was sympathetic to individuals who enter the United States with out documentation. “That’s a concern,” he stated.

And anti-immigrant teams are girding for a struggle. “In the midst of the current border crisis, ICE needs a strong leader at the helm — not an open-borders apologist opposed to the enforcement of our immigration laws,” Preston Huennekens, a authorities relations supervisor for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, stated of Sheriff Gonzalez’s nomination.

The sheriff, whose tenure in Harris County, which incorporates Houston, started weeks earlier than Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, is not any stranger to ICE, an company that makes a number of arrests in the space. In 2019, he shared his objections to raids carried out by ICE brokers and made clear his division didn’t take part in them. “I do not support #ICERaids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.,” he posted on Twitter. “The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats. Not others who are not threats.”

In Tucson, Chief Magnus restricted the attain of the federal immigration authorities by narrowing the scope of the conditions deemed applicable for considered one of his officers to name ICE or Border Patrol.

But if conservatives are leery of the nominees, native immigrant teams are skeptical of their good-cop pictures.

“Our communities in Texas have witnessed firsthand how Sheriff Gonzalez has worked with ICE to transfer immigrants to ICE detention facilities and perpetuated the pain and trauma of our communities,” stated Norma Gonzalez, a lead organizer in Texas for United We Dream, which represents younger undocumented immigrants introduced to the nation illegally as kids.

Some pro-immigration activists in Tucson are equally skeptical of Chief Magnus. After a 2017 protest in opposition to Mr. Trump’s immigration insurance policies, a video of a Tucson police officer pushing an 86-year-old girl went viral. Another girl, in her 60s, was pepper-sprayed by the police when she reached down to assist her. At the time, Chief Magnus stated his officers managed the state of affairs, which he described as a peaceable protest that escalated to “a safety and logistical challenge.”

Still, the outspoken opposition of Chief Magnus and Sheriff Gonzalez to utilizing native regulation enforcement to implement federal immigration regulation is a pointy departure from the previous 4 years, when Mr. Trump typically threatened to reduce off federal funding to cities that didn’t help in his crackdowns.

Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Ariz., has taken pleasure in his metropolis’s boast of “being welcoming to immigrants.”Credit…Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star, through Associated Press

The Trump administration sought to broaden a program, created in a 1996 regulation, that teamed federal immigration companies with native regulation enforcement. Mr. Biden has stated he didn’t consider that the native police ought to flip over undocumented immigrants to ICE to be deported.

And the secretary of homeland safety, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, has began a evaluation of such agreements. In May, he ended agreements with two county jails, in Georgia and Massachusetts, which had been below investigation over whether or not they had mistreated immigrant prisoners. Other agreements may be terminated in the coming months.

“For several decades now, immigrant leaders have been demanding total disentanglement of local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement,” stated Simon Y. Sandoval-Moshenberg, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “I think the nomination of these two individuals gives a lot of people hope that we might actually see some real concrete action on that front.”

If something, liberal teams seem prepared to impose unrealistic calls for on Mr. Biden’s nominees for ICE and Customs and Border Protection, utilizing the loftiest of language to lay down their visions.

“The entire federal immigration system must be reimagined to lead with the concept that migration is a human right, and a commitment to replace the deportation-centric immigration system with one that embraces equity, diversity and fairness,” stated Laura Peña, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Customs and Border Protection and ICE have been at the middle of a few of the most contentious insurance policies below the Trump administration, accused of racial profiling, extreme power and inhumanely dealing with individuals in custody. The companies have been amongst a dozen Mr. Trump turned to final summer season in his bid to “dominate” demonstrators protesting police brutality.

Those are additionally points Chief Magnus and Sheriff Gonzalez have confronted in their very own departments.

Last yr, Chief Magnus provided to resign after two Latino males died in his division’s custody. One of the males was bare, handcuffed and face down on the floor, and stated he couldn’t breathe. When the mayor refused to evaluation the division’s practices, the chief introduced in an out of doors group to achieve this. Some teams have criticized Chief Magnus’s dealing with of the state of affairs, saying he took too lengthy to launch related footage.

Sheriff Gonzalez, in 2018, fired a deputy who shot and killed an unarmed man, which violated the division’s coverage on use of power.

“You’ve got two really innovative police executives who have been tested and know what the challenge of changing organizations and culture — they’ve been there,” stated Chuck Wexler, the government director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Even Mr. Judd, the Border Patrol union chief, stated some cultural change was vital. In 2019, a bunch of Customs and Border Protection staff, together with the chief of Border Patrol, participated in non-public Facebook teams and different social media platforms with posts that included obscene pictures of Hispanic lawmakers in addition to threats to members of Congress.

Mr. Biden has unveiled an immigration overhaul that Democrats launched in the House in February. The proposal provides a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants dwelling in the United States. But it doesn’t embrace a major concentrate on rising border safety, which is a departure from earlier payments. It faces an nearly unimaginable climb in the evenly divided Senate, the place at the least 10 Republican votes can be wanted for passage.

Mr. Trump has largely united his celebration behind his punitive hard-line strategy, and since Mr. Biden took workplace, congressional Republicans have tirelessly charged that the state of affairs at the border is uncontrolled.

With the events in Congress in no temper to cooperate on laws, it is going to be up to the chiefs of the immigration enforcement companies to lead any adjustments. And that may imply navigating very conflicting calls for.

According to ICE information, arrests are down about 65 %. There have been simply over 13,000 arrests from February by means of June, in contrast with almost 40,000 over the identical interval in 2020. The pandemic has had a major impact on the state of affairs. In April 2020, ICE arrested 5,792, which was a 44 % lower from a month earlier.

The lower this yr may also be attributed to Mr. Biden’s steerage requiring ICE to concentrate on violent offenders. The common every day inhabitants in its detention amenities, nevertheless, has elevated in current months, as extra migrants have arrived at the southwestern border.

Liberals in Congress have additionally denounced the Biden administration’s enforcement priorities, arguing, for example, that its definition of a public security threat — anybody convicted of an aggravated felony — is “a relic of the racist war on drugs.”

“Immigration enforcement is inherently problematic in this country,” Mr. Wexler stated. “The work force has heard different messages over the years, and certainly, coming on the heels of the Trump administration, there’s going to have to be finding the right balance.”

Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.