Eight months after his nomination to lead the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency, the Senate confirmed Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus as the agency’s first confirmed commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2019.
The vote was 50-47, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) being the only Republican to vote with the chamber’s Democrats and Independents. The Tucson City Council also voted Tuesday to promote Deputy Chief Chad Kasmar to fill Magnus’ job leading their police department.
On Nov. 3, the Senate Finance Committee approved Magnus’ nomination 15-13, with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) the only Republican to vote in favor of advancing the nominee to the full Senate.
CBP has not had a Senate-confirmed commissioner since CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan assumed the duties of acting Homeland Security secretary and then resigned that fall. John Sanders only served in the acting commissioner role for fewer than three months before Mark Morgan was moved into the acting commissioner post and served in that capacity until the end of the Trump administration.
Troy Miller, who served as director of field operations for CBP’s New York Field Office, has been serving as acting commissioner in the Biden administration.
“He has a strong grasp on the important work CBP does every single day and I look forward to working alongside him,” Miller tweeted Tuesday of Magnus’ confirmation.
In his October confirmation hearing, Magnus told the Senate Finance Committee that it has “been particularly difficult to be a CBP agent, and certainly a Border Patrol agent in the recent past,” stressing that he aims to “help depoliticize this process” of shifting policies and “build in resiliency as a key for helping our men and women, our hard-working men and women of the Border Patrol, be as effective as possible in their jobs.”
“I think it’s going to be important that the individuals who are making the policy decisions, which obviously include the secretary, the president and others, that they get accurate feedback from me based on what I’m seeing in terms of talking to the men and women at the border, in terms of talking people in border communities,” said Magnus, who previously served as chief of police in Fargo, N.D., and Richmond, Calif.
The nominee called it “essential to recognize that what we think of as the border is not homogenous, and there’s no one solution that will provide us with perfect border security.”
“So if confirmed, I will do what I’ve always done in my professional career, which is to uphold the law,” he said. “I will expect without exception that all agency personnel be conscientious, fair and humane when enforcing the law… I believe that by working with Congress, the men and women who serve CBP, and its public- and private-sector partners, that we can build upon its many strengths to make the agency even better.”
Magnus told senators that “preparation is critical” for future influxes of migrants at the southern border, stressing the importance of working with Mexican counterparts on intelligence, coordinating the processing of migrants, and having “more Border Patrol agents out on the line, doing what they were trained to do.”
The nominee said that federal officials “can do a better job with how individuals are processed, but key to this is that it is done humanely.”
“I don’t believe that we have to sacrifice efficiency for humanity. And so I think humanity has to be part of the discussion again, early and often throughout the careers of CBP members. This is something we talk a lot about in policing,” Magnus said. “We do our jobs enforcing the law, but how we engage with the public, even the public that we may be arresting, is what defines us as professionals and this is something that we have a moral obligation to do.”
The confirmation comes as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is on a swing through Western states to meet with department employees. On Monday, he met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees in Phoenix; on Tuesday, he met with ICE ERO, OPLA, and HSI employees in San Francisco and visited the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Southern California.