Biden Immigration Agenda Gets Boost as Border Chief Confirmed

  • CBP’s Border Patrol reported record encounters in past year
  • Democrats want stronger DHS enforcement oversight

Chris Magnus will take the helm of U.S. Customs and Border Protection as commissioner amid record border crossings and persistent public scrutiny after winning Senate confirmation.

The Senate’s 50-47 vote on Tuesday gives the agency its first confirmed leader since 2019.

Magnus, most recently police chief in Tucson, Ariz., told members of the Senate Finance Committee he was committed to pursuing diverse solutions to border security challenges while ensuring fair and humane treatment of migrants.

His confirmation comes after months of delay as lawmakers zeroed in on the agency’s handling of large numbers of migrants at the border and its response to domestic demonstrations. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) held up the process while pressing the Department of Homeland Security for answers on the agency’s deployment of law enforcement officers to protests in Portland, Ore., last year.

Biden Border Pick Grilled on Immigration, Law Enforcement

Photo: Rod Lamkey/CNP/Bloomberg
Chris Magnus speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Oct. 19, 2021.

Magnus has shown that he “wants to approach immigration challenges in a way that brings the two sides together,” Wyden said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.

CBP has a broad portfolio that includes enforcing trade laws and managing the flow of international commerce. Its highest-profile mission is that of the U.S. Border Patrol, which apprehends and processes migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. without authorization.

Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to tighten enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico line, with the Border Patrol’s fiscal 2021 apprehensions marking the highest agents have ever reported at the southern border. Magnus rebuffed GOP pressure during his confirmation hearing to label the southern border challenges a “crisis.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted to confirm Magnus, said she had interviewed him extensively and was “satisfied.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors shrinking immigration levels in the U.S., on Tuesday called on senators to reject Magnus’s nomination and warned that the group would “highlight” those who voted for him over the coming weeks.

Democrats have called for an overhaul of DHS law enforcement training and oversight following controversy over border agents’ treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas. CBP logged more than 2,000 complaints of alleged criminal or “serious” misconduct in fiscal 2020, a decrease from more than 4,000 the previous year, according to a recent CBP report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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