By Terri Jo Neff |
On Monday, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels met with stakeholders about the ongoing crisis at the Arizona / Mexico border. The next day, he took to the airways to explain why two sheriffs’ associations strongly oppose the nomination of Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to head the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
As Dannels made his comments to KFYI’s James T. Harris, Magnus was in Washington D.C. for a hearing on his nomination put forth by President Joe Biden to become CBP’s next commissioner. The nomination is being championed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but does not have the support of the National Sheriffs’ Association nor the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association.
“We need a leader there who can lead that organization into the future, not be a political puppet or yes man, not somebody who can say ‘hey this is wrong, it’s broke, let’s put action behind the men and women who are doing their best to solve this border,” Dannels told Harris. “This is not a political issue. This is a righteous issue for leadership, and on behalf of our CBP agents who can’t speak on this, we have a voice for them.”
Magnus has worked in public safety since 1979, always with municipal agencies. He currently oversees about 1,200 employees in Tucson, a city that is not even among the top 30 largest in the country.
By comparison, the San Diego Police Department has nearly 3,000 employees, while the Los Angeles Police Department is comprised of about 12,000 employees, 9,000 of whom are sworn officers.
However, CBP has more than 60,000 employees, including 45,000 sworn employees such as CBP officers assigned at America’s 328 ports of entry as well as U.S. Border Patrol agents.
In his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Magnus said he recognized CBP “is a proud agency with a mission that is vital to this country” and that he will expect, without exception, “that all agency personnel be conscientious, fair, and humane when enforcing the law.”
He also testified that he prides himself “on being a pragmatic and bipartisan problem-solver,” and that by working with Congress, the employees of CBP, and its various partners “we can build upon its many strengths to make the agency even better.” His comments skated over the fact TPD has not had a good relationship with CBP during his tenure.
Yet the sheriffs groups focused on Magnus’ qualifications -or lack thereof- to lead a massive organization which is critical to homeland security concerns and to deal with what Dannels calls the “hot mess” of a border that saw a 325 percent increase this year in immigrants arriving at America’s southwest border.
Dannels, whose county shares 83 miles of that border with Mexico, is the president of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association, which represents 14 of the state’s 15 elected sheriffs. He also serves as chair of the border security committee of the National Sheriff’s Association.
According to Dannels, the decision by the National Sheriff’s Association to oppose Magnus’ nomination came only after conducting an interview with the chief.
“Obviously, after the interview, based on his experience, knowledge on the border and CBP and trade, off the past relationship -of which there really hasn’t been a past relationship with border communities by Chief Magnus- and the leadership, we felt that he is not the guy to carry this forward on behalf of CBP,” Dannels told Harris.
The group then sent letters to Biden, Mayorkas, as well as all 100 Senators outlining Magnus’ shortcomings for the job. That move prompted the Arizona Sheriff’s Association to send its own letter detailing the “dire circumstances” at the border and Magnus’ lack of qualifications and poor relationship with CBP.
Magnus’ nomination is supported by Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. Any individual or organization may present their views to the Committee by submitting a single-spaced Word document (not exceeding 10 pages) for inclusion in the official hearing record.
The title of the hearing (Consider the Nomination of Chris Magnus, of Arizona, to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security) and the hearing date (Oct. 19, 2021) must be included on the first page of the statement, along with the full name and address of the individual or organization submitting the statement.
The deadline for submitting a statement is Nov. 2. Statements can be emailed to: Statementsfortherecord@finance.senate.gov or mailed to: Senate Committee on Finance Attn. Editorial and Document Section Rm. SD-219 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20510-6200. There is no fax option.
CHIEF MAGNUS TESTIFIES ABOUT HIS NOMINATION: