It took nearly eight months, but President Joe Biden has finally gotten the Senate to endorse Chris Magnus as head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The commissioner is responsible for the Border Patrol, the largest police force in the country with 60,000 agents. The confirmation of the first person in charge of the CBP since 2019 comes at a time when the border with Mexico is experiencing an intense migratory flow. At the same time, the Biden Administration tries to break with the harsh policies implemented by the Donald Trump Administration.
This Wednesday, the first two migrants returned by the United States after the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (PPM), known colloquially as Stay in Mexico, arrived in Ciudad Juárez, in Mexico. The controversial initiative was revived thanks to a court ruling, which found that the Biden Administration had struck her down without justification. The PPMs require that people seeking asylum in the United States wait for their process on the other side of the Rio Grande (Rio Grande in the United States) in Mexican territory regardless of the dangers they experience or the lack of infrastructure to house them. The return of the Stay in Mexico shows that Biden’s well-intentioned turn to immigration policy will take longer than expected.
Magnus’s appointment is also part of that shift in the Democratic Administration’s immigration policy. His confirmation on Tuesday required the support of Republican senators. It came from legislator Susan Collins of Maine, who joined the Democratic senators and prevented Magnus from running the same fate as other Biden appointments like the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Weapons and the Audit Clerk. , who was forced to withdraw her application this week due to the lack of support.
Magnus, 61, had been the chief of police in Tucson (Arizona) since 2016. Married to a man who migrated from Hong Kong for 15 years and the son of a Norwegian immigrant, he has a long history in the police forces since he entered to the force of Lansig (Michigan). Later, he was chief of police in Fargo (North Dakota), Richmond (California) before arriving in Tucson, on the border with Sonora, where he was in charge of 1,100 agents. Educated at Harvard, his tenure in the police forces focuses on a more progressive vision and on equipping soldiers with training to make them less aggressive and, instead, build relationships with the communities they police.
“He believes that enforcing immigration laws and treating people with dignity are not mutually exclusive,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said a few days ago in one of the shows of support. The Administration has proposed to give a humane turn to the treatment of migrants, an intention that was questioned by the photographs that went around the world of CBP agents chasing Haitians on horses on the border between Mexico and Texas. Sen. Elizabeth Warren questioned Magnus about this last October. “I think we have asylum obligations as a nation,” the police chief replied to the former presidential candidate. “Although we seek efficiency in working with asylum seekers, we can never overlook the fact that we must treat people humanely,” he continued.
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Republicans, on the other hand, do not consider him the right man to face what they classify as a crisis on the border with Mexico, an area where 1.7 million encounters with undocumented immigrants have been registered in the last fiscal year, the highest number on record. never. Magnus avoided using that word at all costs at the October hearing and instead defined the situation in the area as a “serious problem” and a great challenge. The already CBP commissioner was a staunch opponent of Trump’s tough policies. He rejected the use of excessive force by agents in the persecution of undocumented immigrants.
Magnus has said he will implement coronavirus testing and encourage vaccinations for all migrants detained and in the custody of Border Patrol agents. These actions could help bring to an end the expulsions of Title 42, a regulation implemented by Trump that allows hot deportation of those who arrive at the border for health reasons due to the contingency of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has continued to use the tool to relieve pressure in the border area.
Despite being the new face for a policy change that has not yet arrived, non-governmental organizations view Magnus’s confirmation with skepticism. Some, such as the Legal Center for the Defense of Immigrants, consider that it is difficult for an official by himself to break with the dynamics of a system that has been used by administrations, both Democrats and Republicans, to persecute immigrants. It is, as Magnus himself defined it, a huge challenge that awaits him.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.