Senate Dems cancel vote on Biden ICE nominee accused of domestic abuse

The Senate was set this week to hold a confirmation vote on President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez from Houston, Texas — with an emphasis on “was.”

The motion to vote on Gonzalez’s confirmation was withdrawn and canceled Tuesday in light of allegations that the nominee had engaged in domestic violence against his wife, The Hill reported.

As such, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chair Gary Peters (D-MI) asked for and received unanimous consent on the Senate floor to withdraw and indefinitely delay the scheduled vote on the Biden nominee.

“Concerning allegations”

The issue was raised Monday in a press release from the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), after he received a sworn affidavit from a Houston law enforcement officer detailing the allegations of domestic violence against Sheriff Gonzalez.

In a letter addressed to Chairman Peters and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lankford noted the “concerning allegations of domestic abuse against Ed Gonzalez” and wrote, “Because of the severity of these allegations, the vote on his nomination should be postponed until it can be determined whether or not these allegations are true.”

That letter went on to outline the allegations put forward in a sworn affidavit by a police officer for Houston Community College following an interview with the school’s vice-chancellor, Melissa Gonzalez, who is the sheriff’s wife. The officer wrote in his report that the sheriff had allegedly become “physical or violent” with his wife after he learned of an extramarital affair between her and the school’s chancellor, Cesar Maldonado.

“If these allegations of physical and violent domestic abuse are true, they are disqualifying for a law enforcement officer at any level and raise significant questions about the nominee,” Lankford wrote in the letter to Peters and Schumer.

“It would be irresponsible for the Senate to vote on the confirmation of Sheriff Gonzalez to be Director of ICE until we determine whether the allegations outlined in the attached affidavit are true,” the Oklahoma Republican concluded. “The cloture motion should be immediately withdrawn until this matter is resolved.”

Twice nominated by Biden

The Hill noted that President Biden had first nominated Sheriff Gonzalez to be the next ICE Director in April 2021.

Per Lankford’s letter, Gonzalez was shortly thereafter approved by the Homeland Security Committee in a party-line vote, but his nomination was never taken up for a full vote by the Senate and ultimately expired at the end of the year.

However, Biden renominated Gonzalez in January 2022, this time to be both ICE director as well as an assistant secretary of Homeland Security. Lankford’s letter pointed out that the nominee had again been advanced out of the committee on a party-line vote without the benefit of any additional hearings or adequate vetting.

Now, however, given the allegations of domestic abuse — which had first been filed in July 2021 and should have been addressed prior to now — the nomination has rightly been placed on hold, and it will be interesting to see if the White House stands in defense of an alleged domestic abuser or takes the “L” and nominates somebody else to lead the ICE agency.

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