It’s been a weird past year when it comes to the top law enforcement officials in the Houston area. First, former Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo became a minor celebrity through regular appearances on national media calling for restraint during the police abuse demonstrations since the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. Now, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been tapped by the Biden Administration to run the notorious Immigration and Customs (ICE).
The assignment brought out praise from Acevedo.
“ICE is probably the most difficult job in this political environment of any federal position in today’s world. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him,” said Acevedo, who has since become the Chief of the Miami Police Department, to KHOU. “Sheriff Gonzalez understands that federal partners need to prioritize going after undocumented immigrants who pose a public safety threat first and foremost, and not necessarily people that but for their immigration status aren’t bothering anybody.”
The two men have mostly had a cordial relationship in their respective roles, often gently teasing each other on Twitter and calling each other brother. The ICE job was one of the many step-ups that Acevedo was rumored to be angling for, but he doesn’t seem to bear his colleague any ill will over the matter. The two actually seemed to balance each other out well, with Acevedo known for crawling into the camera and Gonzales being much more restrained about publicity. Acevedo spoke prominently at the Democratic National Convention last year.
However, the circumstances of the past several years still put both men in the spotlight, including the more publicity-shy sheriff. Both men have been very critical of ICE, especially under the more draconian initiatives of the Trump Administration. Unlike Acevedo, who often seems to view reforming the immigration and immigrant law enforcement systems as a matter of public relations, Gonzalez is more of a nuts and bolts kind of guy, not unlike President Biden himself.
For instance, Gonzalez actually testified in federal court against Harris County when it came to fighting unfair bail practices that affect immigrants. Acevedo also called for bail reform, but one of the few clashes between the men actually ended up opposing the idea. He cited fears about releasing 8,000 inmates during the worst days of the COVID pandemic as a matter of public safety. The matter put the two cops in the bizarre position of the county sheriff supporting a city reform while the city’s own police chief fought against it.
Still, both men have long held ICE in contempt for the way they were used as a racist bludgeon for nationalist agendas. Gonzalez famously stopped participating in the program that was being used to determine immigration status of jailed prisoners, and he barred his deputies from participating in immigration raids. Acevedo also spoke out against raids in Houston, declaring that they would make it less likely that undocumented immigrants would report crimes out of fear. In rolling back the excesses of the organization, the two men were aligned.
As the tale of Houston’s police bromance ends with Gonzalez and Acevedo going their separate ways, we look to what the new paradigm will be. Gonzalez is an outsider to the ICE system who potentially has a chance to change it for the better if such a thing can be done. His history of opposing actions by ICE will likely lead to a fight during his confirmation. If he passes, he’ll finally have the chance to make good on his long history of criticism.