Chris Magnus, Tucson’s police chief, was nominated Monday by President Joe Biden to serve as Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), one of the agencies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The announcement cited Magnus’s role as police chief of “a diverse city close to the U.S.-Mexican border” and his reputation during law enforcement positions in Michigan, North Dakota, California, and Arizona for developing into a progressive leader “focused on relationship-building between the police and community, implementing evidence-based best practices, promoting reform, and insisting on police accountability.”
CBP, which includes the U.S. Border Patrol along with the Air and Marine Operations, is not just responsible for the 1,950-mile southwest border with Mexico. The agency’s roughly 60,000 employees are also tasked with securing the 5,500-mile northern border, more than 300 ports of entry, as well as tens of thousands of shoreline in the continental U.S. and various territories.
Magnus issued a statement Monday saying he was “of course, very honored to be nominated by the President to lead Customs and Border Protection” and is looking forward to speaking with the senators “and hearing their thoughts and concerns.” The chief will not, however, step down at this time, as the confirmation process “is never a certainty,” he noted.
In recent months, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb have spent a lot of time calling on the Biden Administration to formulate a plan for handling the immigration surge at the southwest border. And they’ve asked that the plan involve input from local and state law enforcement agencies on the front lines.
Just last week Dannels was among a group of sheriffs who met with Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of Homeland Security in El Paso. The same day, Lamb appeared on a national news show about the challenges his deputies face from the numerous undocumented immigrants who evade CBP officers and USBP agents.
Lamb did not issue a comment about Magnus’s nomination, but Dannels released a statement Monday evening.
Dannels told Arizona Daily Independent that securing the border is the top priority, as it impacts public safety, national security, public health, and humanitarian efforts. And in a separate statement, he pointed to the challenges border communities continue to face from smuggling activities organized by criminal cartels.
The crisis at the border makes it critical for the White House and Homeland Security to appoint leadership that possesses the experience and knowledge to secure our borders, Dannels said.
“It is not the time to play political theater and/or avoidance as the time to act is not tomorrow, but immediately,” he said. “My fellow Sheriffs and I will continue to remain steadfast and vocal until our borders find secure sustainability and manageable balance.”
Dannels added that the sheriffs will rely on their oaths and statutory authority to protect citizens while continuing “to challenge those elected to office and appointed to fulfill their duties and their ultimate mandate requiring them to protect all Americans.”
The issue, Dannels said, is not about the position that a leader possesses “but the leadership one possesses to safeguard the people. I will limit my comment regarding the recent announcement of Tucson Police Chief Magnus’ appointment to the content of this statement with high hopes his oath will override any political agenda.”
Magnus started in public safety in 1979 as a dispatcher in Lansing, Michigan before becoming a paramedic and then a deputy sheriff. He because a police officer in 1985 with the Lansing Police Department where he spent the next 15 years.
Then in 1999 Magnus took over the police chief’s position in Fargo, North Dakota where he remained until 2006 when he was hired as chief for the city of Richmond, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He moved on to Tucson in 2016, and since that time he has been involved with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) within the U.S. Department of Justice and is a member of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force.
Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both Democrats, issued supportive statements Monday in response to Magnus’s nomination.
“Chief Chris Magnus’s nomination to lead Customs and Border Protection represents a positive step toward ensuring the administration understands and addresses the needs of Arizona communities,” Sinema said, adding that she was looking forward to talking with Magnus soon about his nomination.
In his comment, Kelly said Arizona requires “strong, capable leadership” within CBP in order to not only secure the border but also to ensure the trade and commerce which is critical for the state’s economy.
“As Tucson’s Police Chief, Chief Magnus understands what it looks like when the federal government fails Arizona on border security and immigration, and that is the experience and perspective he can bring to this position,” Kelly said.
There are concerns with how Magnus’s progressive, reform-minded outlook will be received by the National Border Patrol Council, while some detractors point to the fact Tucson is not on the border. Others point to his previous statements about ignoring someone’s immigration status if they are a victim or witness of a crime.
The NBPC had not issued a statement on Magnus’s nomination as of press time.