The Senate held the first confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. Customs and Border Protection head yesterday, Oct. 19. The chosen one, Tucson, AZ, Police Chief Chris Magnus, who also served as the same in Richmond, CA, kept his responses pretty vague, several times saying bipartisan support would be needed to get the southern border under some semblance of control. While refusing to call the mess a crisis, he agreed it was a very serious issue.
In his opening statement, the hopeful CBP candidate said:
“It’s essential to recognize that what we think of as the border is not homogenous and there is no one solution that will provide us with perfect border security. So, if confirmed, I will do what I have always done, which is to uphold the law. I will expect without exception that all agency personnel be conscientious, fair, and humane when enforcing the law.”
Known to be a progressive law enforcement officer, Magnus was a critic of former President Donald Trump, especially when it came to illegal immigration concerns. In 2017, he opined in The New York Times that the Trump administration’s strong policies against “sanctuary cities” would hurt public safety. When pressured by senators about illegal migrants and the turmoil at the border, the police chief mostly evaded. He did, however, surprise some when he agreed with certain points advocated by Republicans.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked if the Biden administration should continue to use Title 42, a public health law that does not permit immigrants who are ill to enter the country. “It’s absolutely imperative that we do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID,” Magnus replied, adding that Title 42 “helps with this.” The candidate also supports testing and vaccinations for migrants in federal custody.
It’s Not a Crisis
Like most Democrats, Magnus was hesitant to call the border situation a crisis. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) asked the nominee if he thought the situation at the border had reached crisis level. “Let me assure you that no one believes there is greater urgency to this matter than I do,” Magnus answered.
After quipping that “’urgent’ strikes the common ear as less than ‘a crisis,’” Young then asked, “Are you saying there is not a crisis at the border?” The senator explained that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 1.3 million migrants have already crossed into the United States in the last year. “What number of illegal crossings would you consider to be a crisis?” Young asked. “What if we were to quintuple that number, would you then call it a crisis?”
Magnus sidestepped the trigger word and replied that “the situation is very serious” and “regardless of what we call it, it is something important to me.”
Plan? What Plan?
Senator James Lankford (R-OK) said Magnus, if confirmed, would be “walking into a chaotic situation” and then queried the police chief, “What is your plan?”
Magnus suggested building relations, such as with the Mexican government, and getting accurate information would be important to come up with a plan. “Of course, if there was a ready-to-go plan to address all the problems that you’ve just described,” he said, “my guess is that not only CBP but you all as a body would have seen to it that it was implemented.”
Senators have until Oct. 24 to submit any other questions they may have before the next hearing.
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.