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Border Chief Magnus Faces Both Internal, External Crises

New Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus faces a myriad of issues at the border and in the ranks of his agency, the Associated Press reports. The former Tucson police chief brings an unusual history to the office. After he was appointed chief in 2016, he rejected federal grants to collaborate with CBP on border security and kept his distance from Border Patrol officials. Roy Villareal, chief of the Border Patrol's Tucson sector from early 2019 to late 2020, said that he tried to schedule an introductory meeting with Magnus when he was chief, but never heard back. Villareal said that Magnus only contacted him three times, each a courtesy call to report that Tucson police were arresting one of Villareal's agents. Recollection of that chilliness led Villareal to state that Magnus is the wrong person for the job and that he does not properly understand border enforcement. As the Border Patrol is facing a morale crisis, this may reflect the feelings of many agents. Villareal predicted that agents will challenge Magnus' authority.

CBP is also facing widespread criticism for mistreatment of migrants, failing to recruit more women, and surging numbers of illegal border crossings. In December, encounters with migrants making illegal crossings near Yuma occurred 20 times more frequently than they did a year earlier. Magnus has not been clear on how he plans to tackle this issue, but he says CBP must "work as many different strategies as possible to deal with those high numbers.” CBP has also been criticized over its officers' increasing of uses of force, despite the fact that uses of force have risen more slowly than the number of encounters on the border. Each time a potentially questionable use of force occurs, the Border Patrol sends a critical incident team to investigate. Some Democratic congressional leaders have expressed serious concerns that investigations performed by these internal teams are not reliable. Magnus has supported the practice and stated that it is not unusual for a police agency to conduct its own reviews of officer-involved shootings.


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