FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesArizona Police Chief Nominated to Lead Customs and Border Protection Declines to Call Border Disaster a ‘Crisis’

When the White House nominated him earlier this year, Chris Magnus was praised by the Biden administration as a “progressive police leader.”
October 22, 2021
President Biden’s nominee to lead United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) indicated in a hearing on Tuesday that he is open to continuing Title 42 and construction on the border wall in some areas, though he chose not to characterize illegal immigration as a “crisis.”

Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in numerous counties along Texas’ border with Mexico in response to record-setting levels of illegal immigration.

In a hearing of the United States Senate Finance Committee, Magnus seemed to take the position that the semantics of whether illegal immigration should be called a “crisis” are unimportant, though he preferred to call it “very serious” and “a big problem.”

In response to questions from Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Magnus stated, “Senator, let me assure you that no one believes there is greater urgency to this matter than I do.”

However, Magnus repeatedly declined to refer to illegal immigration as a crisis, instead saying it was his “highest priority” and “urgent.”

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Young pointed to the number of illegal crossings, which were reportedly the highest number ever recorded in Fiscal Year 2021.

“[The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)] tells us that we’ve already seen over 1.3 million illegal border crossings so far this year. That’s about one-point-five times the population of Indianapolis, Indiana. I’d say that’s a crisis,” Young stated. “What number of illegal crossings would you consider to be a crisis? What if we were to quintuple that number? Would you then call it a crisis?”

Magnus replied, “Senator, I appreciate your question, and I’m already doing my best to acknowledge that the situation is very serious[…]regardless of what we call it.”

Since January 2016, Magnus has been the chief of the Tucson Police Department in Arizona. When Biden nominated Magnus in April, the White House emphasized his decades-long public safety career, specifically his service as the chief of police in Tucson, Fargo, North Dakota, and Richmond, California.

“In each of these cities Magnus developed a reputation as a progressive police leader who focused on relationship-building between the police and community, implementing evidence-based best practices, promoting reform, and insisting on police accountability,” the administration wrote in a statement.

Tucson is the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, which encompasses a significant portion of the Grand Canyon State’s border with Mexico.

Magnus would replace CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, who took office the day Biden was inaugurated. Miller succeeded the Trump administration’s acting commissioner, Mark Morgan, who is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Though he did stress his belief in improving the technology of border enforcement, Magnus indicated that he is open to continuing construction on the border wall.

The nominee told Young he was not familiar with the specific border wall contracts that had been canceled, but signaled he is open-minded on the issue.

“What I will tell you, sir, is that I think there is a place for infrastructure and I think that includes inserting sections, completion of barriers, walls, other things, so this is an area I want to learn more about,” Magnus said, though he declined to say whether he would reinstate the contracts for the border wall.

This seems to contrast with the Biden administration’s public disdain for the border wall project, which was a signature campaign promise and policy measure of former President Trump. 

The federal government announced the end of the border wall project almost as soon as Biden took office, and DHS said earlier this month that all border contracts in the Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sectors would be canceled.

The State of Texas is currently working on its own border wall project, which Abbott announced in June as part of the state’s response to the illegal immigration disaster.

Magnus, who branded himself as a “pragmatic person” who would approach issues from a “common sense” perspective, also expressed a favorable position toward the continued use of public health laws known as Title 42 to rapidly expel illegal aliens who may spread COVID-19 to the American public.

“As I think I indicated in my opening statement, as a paramedic for 10 years, public health has always been one of my top concerns and because of that I feel it’s imperative that we do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID,” Magnus explained.

“Title 42 is a CDC authority and it helps, I think it helps with this. CBP certainly has a responsibility with implementing this policy.”

The Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), has yet to vote on Magnus’ nomination.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."