Immigration

Gonzalez ICE nomination stalls because of unsubstantiated domestic abuse allegation his wife says isn’t true

The claims were made as part of an unrelated lawsuit in July of 2021, but there is no evidence any abuse took place and Gonzalez was never charged with a crime.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo
Ed Gonzalez testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, about his nomination to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, Thursday, July 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez’s nomination to lead the country’s top immigration enforcement agency is in jeopardy after revelations of a domestic abuse allegation his wife says isn't true.

A vote on Gonzalez's nomination to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was expected this week, but has now been delayed because of concerns of unsubstantiated claims in a July 2021 affidavit from an unrelated case involving Houston Community College, where Gonzalez’s wife Melissa served as vice chancellor.

“Any suggestion that I filed or made a complaint against my husband is false and defamatory,” Melissa Gonzalez wrote in a letter provided by the White House. “To be clear, the assertions referenced in the affidavit, as they relate to me, my husband, or my marriage, are completely false.”

In a separate statement, the White House confirmed President Joe Biden would stand by the sheriff’s nomination.

“Sheriff Gonzalez is an extraordinarily qualified law enforcement professional with 30 years' experience,” a White House official said. “He has a proven track record of implementing progressive solutions to difficult problems, while coordinating with federal partners, including ICE, to make Harris County Texas safer, and he should be confirmed without delay.”

The underlying lawsuit was filed by another former HCC employee against the college, alleging sexual harassment against two superiors at the college. The affidavit was signed by a former HCC police officer, but provides no evidence to support abuse claims and alleges no physical violence. No charges were ever filed against the sheriff.

Jason Spencer, a former spokesman for the sheriff’s office, confirmed on Twitter that the office was aware of the story at the time but no evidence was ever found to suggest the claims were true.

Nonetheless, Republican GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, brought those concerns forward and asked for the vote’s delay in a letter to Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

“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,” he said.

Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Gonzalez has been a target of Republican senators on the committee because of past comments about ICE and immigration policy under former President Donald Trump. In particular, Gonzalez has been critical of the 287(g) program, which allows ICE to coordinate with local law enforcement in detaining people accused of immigration offenses. Gonzalez said during his July 15 confirmation hearing that he had no intention to end the program if confirmed, but still faced harsh criticism from GOP lawmakers.

That Republican pushback has helped delay a floor vote to confirm Gonzalez.

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