Chris Magnus is President Biden’s pick for the leader of the U.S. customs and border protection.  Magnus’ new responsibilities include patrolling the border while USCIS runs legal immigration services. Both positions require Senate confirmation and were run by acting leaders under former President Donald Trump. Chris Magnus has been known for not respecting former President Trump’s policies on undocumented immigrants and supporting sanctuary cities. Magnus is currently police chief in Tucson, Arizona, where he rejected federal border security grant money from Operation Stonegarden in 2020. The decision sparked criticism from the head of Tucson Police Officers Association, Tony Archibald. The nomination comes as a rising number of people attempting to enter the country along the Southwest border.

Chris Magnus immigration policies 

Magnus leads the police force in Tucson, which is not a sanctuary city but calls itself an “immigrant welcoming community.” Tucson has changed police policy to make it harder for officers to enforce immigration laws. “As the police chief here, I’m deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s campaign against ‘sanctuary cities,’ which refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. Washington is trying to retaliate against them by withholding funding for things like crime prevention, drug treatment and mental health programs,” Magnus wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times in 2017.  “Almost all local law enforcement agencies, regardless of the ‘sanctuary’ or ‘immigrant-welcoming’ policies adopted by their jurisdictions, cooperate with federal authorities to go after drug cartels, human traffickers and transnational gangs.” Also in 2017, Magnus opposed orders from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Kelly ordered prioritizing enforcement operations for undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes. The orders allowed local authorities to capture and deport most undocumented immigrants they encounter through a program that cities and counties could join. Magnus said that those policies would hinder investigations. The obvious disregard for orders is not the only thing that has the public concerned about this choice. 

Magnus’ Issues with Transparency 

Some immigrant advocates say Magnus’ nomination could bring about positive change, but Tucson attorney Isabel Garcia said his actions following an in-custody death concerns her. “What concerns me with him is his absolute lack of transparency, that he spent almost two months with information that his agents had a death in their custody, he didn’t tell the mayor, and he didn’t tell us,” she said. Magnus’ department came under fire over the in-custody death of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez. Garcia said Magnus’ role in that situation needs to be looked at closer if he is to lead Customs and Border Protection. Customs and Border Protection has often been criticized for its own transparency issues with in-custody deaths. Others on the right worry that maybe this nomination from the Biden Administration is not to help immigration but to keep Arizona a blue state. Arizona is a very important swing state. 

Magnus previously worked at the police departments in Fargo, North Dakota, and Richmond, California. He has been described as having “extensive experience in addressing immigration issues,” because of Tucson’s close proximity to the border. The number of undocumented migrants apprehended by the Border Patrol along the Southwest border has been rising for some time. The Biden administration has to turn back adults, due to a public health order Trump issued at the start of the pandemic, but is allowing unaccompanied children and some families to stay. The U.S. government picked up nearly 19,000 children traveling alone across the Mexican border in March, the largest monthly number ever recorded.

Written by: Erinn Malloy

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