The agency has been without a confirmed director for five-and-a-half years.

The agency has been without a confirmed director for five-and-a-half years. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement

ICE Continues Its Streak Without a Confirmed Leader as Biden's Nominee Withdraws

The Homeland Security Department agency last had a confirmed director in 2013.

President Biden’s nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement has withdrawn his nomination, leaving the agency in an ongoing state without permanent leadership that has persisted since the Obama administration. 

Ed Gonzalez, who serves as the sheriff of Harris County in Texas, announced on Twitter on Monday that he informed Biden of his decision to remove himself from consideration. His nomination has been pending before the Senate since January, but never appeared to gather enough support to win approval. Republicans have opposed nearly every element of the Biden administration’s immigration policies and some Democrats voiced apprehension about Gonzalez’s nomination after a police affidavit surfaced accusing him of domestic abuse. Both Gonzalez and his wife have denied the allegations. 

“I arrived at this decision after prayerfully considering what's best for our nation, my family, and the people of Harris County who elected me to serve a second term as sheriff,” Gonzalez said. “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. Frankly, the dysfunction threatens America's heart and soul.”

ICE has remained in the spotlight throughout its five-and-a-half years without a confirmed director, as the Trump administration cracked down on undocumented residents and the Biden administration has confronted an unprecedented level of arrivals at the southern border. While many of the changes Biden has sought to implement on immigration policy have been stalled in federal court, he has implemented some significant reforms at ICE. The administration has directed ICE employees to refocus its arrests on undocumented immigration posing national security threats or who recently crossed the border, and ceased workplace raids. After years of flat or reduced funding during the Trump administration, Congress approved—and Biden signed into law—a 6% bump for ICE in the fiscal 2023 omnibus funding bill.

The union representing ICE workers has vociferously criticized Biden’s policies and is currently seeking to break away from its parent union—the American Federation of Government Employees—for supporting the administration.  

Good government organizations have frequently decried allowing any agency to languish without permanent leadership, noting it deflates workforce morale, leaves the agency without a voice in key conversations and creates “acting” heads who do not have the full authority to run an organization. Tae Johnson, who has served as acting director throughout the Biden administration, is the eighth person to hold that title since Sarah Saldaña stepped down at the end of the Obama administration.