Tucson Police Chief receives Senate confirmation hearing to be next CBP commissioner

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus on Tuesday received a confirmation hearing by the United States Senate Committee on Finance to be the next commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Magnus previously served as police chief in Fargo, N.D from 1999 to 2006 before being selected as police chief of Richmond, Calif. In 2016, Magnus was appointed Chief of the Tucson Police Department.

Magnus was nominated by President Joe Biden on April 12, however his confirmation was delayed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee chairman.

Wyden told the Washington Post in July that he would not move forward with the confirmation until the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security answered questions on the deployment of federal law enforcement to Portland, Ore. in 2020 to quell civil unrest.

Senators at Tuesday’s hearing expressed concerns about the increase in undocumented border crossings, the treatment of migrants at the southern border, the importation of goods manufactured with forced labor and the enforcement of trade laws. 

Magnus’ confirmation hearing comes as migrant encounters on the southwest border are at a 21-year high.

Wyden, in his opening remarks, said that “CBP not only investigates allegations of forced labor and demands remediation where appropriate, it also enforces the ban on forced labor products entering the country. This is a difficult job, and once again, it requires quick action and lots of communication with businesses, human rights organizations and others.”

Arizona’s two U.S. senators – who do not serve on the Committee on Finance – introduced Magnus at Tuesday’s hearing. 

“Tucson city officials and NGOs have teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security to manage high numbers of asylum seekers and other migrants arriving in Arizona,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D, said. “Chief Magnus’ role in this partnership has shown that he understands the current issues at our border.” 

Sinema added that “CBP needs a commissioner who understands how to thwart organized criminal networks while also allowing for the efficient flow of legitimate trade and travel.”

Sen. Mark Kelly, D, also touted Magnus’ nomination. 

“Arizona shares a 373-mile-long border with Mexico,” he said. “Arizonans know that too often Washington is far removed from this reality. As we continue to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and work to rebuild our economy, it’s critical that our trade and tourism economies recover as well.”

In his opening statement, Magnus stated that “CBP’s modern day responsibilities – facilitating immigration, protecting our nation’s border security, promoting trade and travel and more – are as critical now as they were in the early days following our nation’s founding.” 

Magnus said that, if confirmed, he would work with Congress to protect intellectual property, agriculture, and the products Americans rely on.

“Addressing forced labor would be one of my high priorities,” Magnus said. “Eliminating forced labor is more than a philosophical undertaking, it is a moral imperative. We must give full force to laws that punish this modern-day slavery while simultaneously facilitating trade for the overwhelming majority of companies that do business responsibly.”

When asked by Sen. Robert Mendndez, D-N.J., about how he plans to address future surges in migration, Magnus said that, if confirmed, he would like to build “the strongest possible relations” with his Mexican counterparts and maintain a line of communication, in order to allow Mexico to play a larger role in addressing the current surge in border crossings. 

In response to a question from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Magnus agreed that the Biden administration’s approach to the southern border is serving as a “pull” factor for migrants attempting to cross the southern border.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Magnus would serve as the first Senate-confirmed Commissioner of CBP since Kevin McAleenan was designated Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in April 2019. 

Magnus would be the first Arizonan to serve as Commissioner of CBP since the agency’s founding in 2003 when the Customs Service was shifted from the Treasury Department into the Department of  Homeland Security. 

Arjun Rondla

Arjun Rondla is an undergraduate studying political science and international trade at Arizona State University and an intern at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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