Former Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus resigned Saturday, less than one year after being confirmed as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), capping a tumultuous and controversial tenure for the longtime city cop.
His resignation was effective immediately, less than one week after the General Election in which border security, or insecurity, was a hot button topic along the southwest border.
The timing of Magnus’s departure raises serious questions about the priorities of President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to whom Magnus reported.
Mayorkas always expressed public confidence in Magnus, despite intense public objection to the nomination. And neither Biden nor Mayorkas appeared concerned month after month with the increase in the number of large shipments of fentanyl and other illicit drugs making it through the CBP-controlled ports of entry.
In fact, there was little comment from the White House after CBP announced its FY2022 statistics last month. It showed more than 2.2 million “encounters” or apprehension by U.S. Border Patrol along the southwest border, along with more than 172,000 encounters with “inadmissables” at the southwest ports of entry.
Those statistics do not include the estimated 600,000 – 700,000 “gotaways” who were never apprehended at or near the border.
As previously reported by AZ Free News, Magnus came under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks for his lack of attendance at key CBP meetings.
The final straw, however, may have been Magnus’s tone deaf response to a very public incident when outnumbered USBP agents were forced to deploy less-than-lethal munitions to quell an incursion of several hundred border crossers near downtown El Paso on Oct. 31.
Magnus issued a statement the next day in which he noted the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility—which is an internal affairs type of unit—was “reviewing this incident.”
Nowhere in his statement did Magnus bother to comment on whether all agents emerged from the situation uninjured.
Yet it appeared Biden was not willing to suffer any political egg on the face until after last week’s General Election. It was not until Nov. 11 that the first outward signs of discord became public, when it was reported that Magnus rejected an ultimatum from higher up officials in the Department of Homeland Security that he resign.
That same day, his official CBP Twitter account was reportedly archived and his access was blocked.
It is unclear whether the resignation demand was made directly by Mayorkas, but Magnus finally submitted his resignation Nov. 12. It was accepted the same day by Biden, according to a White House press release.
Many eyebrows were raised when Biden nominated Magnus back in April 2021 to head the agency’s 60,000 employees at U.S. Border Patrol, CBP’s Office of Field Operations, and Air & Marine Operations. The agency is also in charge of facilitating international travel and trade.
Organizations such as the Western Sheriffs Association criticized the nomination, pointing out Magnus had no management experience with such a large and critical federal agency.
Others, such as the National Border Patrol Council, pointed to the fact Magnus never worked in federal law enforcement.
There were also concerns about the occasional public disdain Magnus expressed toward the role federal border policies play in protecting national security. Having Magnus at the helm of CBP was seen as proof for some who live and work along the U.S. southwest border that Biden had no concern for their communities reeling from an unending influx of border crossers and illegal criminal activity.
The criticism continued after Magnus was confirmed in December 2021. He was seen as preoccupied with internal issues and establishing a strong esprit de corps rather than ensuring CBP officers and USBP agents have the resources and support needed to do their job.
The announcement of Magnus’ resignation provided no reassurance to CBP’s employees nor the public that new leadership has been identified. For now, it is assumed Deputy Commissioner Troy A. Miller will once again serve as Acting CBP Commissioner, a position he held for nearly 12 months until Magnus was confirmed.
Miller’s official biography shows he began his federal law enforcement career nearly 30 years ago as a Customs Inspector. He has held a number of CBP positions in the years since, including Director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office where he oversaw a district that included John F. Kennedy International Airport and the New York / Newark container seaport.
On Wednesday, the entire Republican caucus of the House submitted a legislative proclamation on the floor denouncing the current state of the border under President Joe Biden.
State Representative Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) sponsored the legislation. All 31 Republicans signed onto it.
The GOP proclamation cited the fact that 1.7 million illegal immigrants accounted for a nearly 380 percent increase in border crossings compared to the previous fiscal year. It also noted the spike in drug trafficking: 10,000 pounds of fentanyl, 180,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 86,000 pounds of cocaine, 5,000 pounds of heroin, and 311,000 pounds of marijuana. That’s in conjunction with thousands of violent crimes committed.
The proclamation also touched on a newer trend: cartels recruiting teenagers via social media to be human smugglers for about $1,500 to $2,000 per illegal immigrant, nicknaming the vehicles “load cars” and the teens “load-car drivers.”
The proclamation is reproduced below, in full:
Whereas, the United States-Mexico border consists of 1,954 miles of varied terrain, including deserts, rugged mountainous areas, forests and coastal areas; and
Whereas, officially established in 1924 by an act of Congress in response to increasing illegal immigration, the United States Border Patrol has primary responsibility for securing the border between ports of entry; and Whereas, Border Patrol agents patrol international land borders and waterways to detect and prevent the illegal trafficking of people, narcotics and contraband into the United States; and
Whereas, on March 7, 2022, the Western States Sheriffs’ Association unanimously passed Resolution 22-1, which outlines the alarming issues facing our nation due to the unchecked illegal immigration crises at our southern border; and
Whereas, the southern border of the United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented number of people attempting to enter the country illegally, with the past fiscal year seeing a 379% increase of border encounters as compared to the previous fiscal year. These 1.7 million individuals represent 164 countries, including countries with suspected terrorist ties, and 63% of them are from countries other than Mexico; and
Whereas, there has likewise been a major increase in apprehensions, expulsions and “getaways” on the southwest border, with one million encounters and 300,000 getaways between October 1, 2021, and April 11, 2022; and
Whereas, in the past fiscal year, the number of illegal drugs seized has skyrocketed, including 10,000 pounds of fentanyl, 180,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 86,000 pounds of cocaine, 5,000 pounds of heroin and 311,000 pounds of marijuana. Likewise, criminal activity has soared, with law enforcement documenting 60 homicides, 1,178 assaults, 2,138 drug-related or drug trafficking arrests, 825 burglaries, 1,629 DUIs, 336 weapons arrests and 488 sexual assaults; and
Whereas, in a new effort to boost their operations, criminal cartels are using social media platforms as a recruiting tool for human smuggling. Drivers are lured by social media posts promising payment of $1,500 to $2,000 for every migrant a person can transport by vehicle to Tucson or Phoenix. Known as “load-car drivers,” these individuals are mainly young people, some as young as fourteen years old, who are enticed to pick up undocumented migrants at the border and ferry them to their destinations in exchange for money. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has called on four social media giants to better monitor their platforms and ban these recruitment posts on their sites; and
Whereas, for individuals who are smuggled into the United States by Mexican and South American cartels, their arrival marks the beginning of years of drug distribution, modern-day slavery and sex trafficking to pay back the criminal cartels to which they are indebted; and
Whereas, an estimated 8% of the 1.7 million encounters last fiscal year were unaccompanied minors; and
Whereas, tragically, the prior year saw 162 migrant deaths in Southern Arizona; and
Whereas, an uncontrolled border is a security and humanitarian crisis, and the increased violence and the smuggling of illegal drugs, weapons and human beings poses a direct threat to our communities and innocent Americans; and
Whereas, the current administration has halted construction of a southern border wall, and there are numerous unfinished sections in Arizona; and
Whereas, this administration is not working collaboratively or in good faith with local law enforcement agencies and other state leaders to address the serious issues related to the border; and
Whereas, in April 2021, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency at Arizona’s southern border; and
Whereas, in February 2022, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a legal opinion determining that the current crisis at Arizona’s southern border with the violence and lawlessness of cartels and gangs legally qualifies as an “invasion” under the United States Constitution.
Therefore, Representative Gail Griffin and the following members of the House of Representatives of the State of Arizona denounce the continued breach of our nation’s southern border and support safe communities, immediate, decisive action to secure the border and alleviate the security and humanitarian crises associated with illegal immigration.
Democratic congressional candidate and former state senator Kirsten Engel declared on Wednesday that there isn’t a border crisis.
Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons asked Engel during an election debate whether she agreed that the current state of the border constituted a crisis. Engel said she didn’t, adding that additional borders security wasn’t the solution.
“No. It does need help at the border. We do — Washington, I would say, has failed us. It’s not just this administration. It’s the past administration. We do need help at our border. We do need to secure our border. We have issues of drug trafficking and human smuggling that need to be addressed, but certainly not walls. I mean walls are a 13th century solution to a 21st century problem.
Engel, who resigned from the state senate last September, insinuated that turning away illegal immigrants was the real crisis.
“I mean, let’s look at what’s going on here. We have people, migrants, coming who want to make a home in our country. You know, these people are like our ancestors coming here. That is — that’s the crisis. That’s a humanitarian crisis,” said Engel. “What we need from Washington is having an orderly asylum process. That’s national law, that’s international law. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We have to help our Dreamers.”
The debate also featured Engel’s Democratic opponent, State Representative Daniel Hernández Jr. (D-Tucson), who disagreed with Engel. He said that a wall wasn’t enough, pointing out the need for more security technology like drones.
“We are seeing that people don’t feel safe where they’re living, even though we are saying that this is an issue that has gone time after time,” said Hernández. “To say there is no crisis is wrong.”
Engel agreed that a federal presence was necessary at the border, as well as more technology, but emphasized her opposition to a border wall.
“Walls are not going to do it, and neither are photo ops,” said Engel. “It’s not all drug smugglers. It’s families with little kids.”
Hernández said that his perspective on rescinding Title 42 reflected that of Democratic Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema: the policy should be removed, but there should be a plan ready to fill the void left behind.
“These are people coming here trying to get a better life, so we should treat them humanely with dignity, but make sure we have a plan to actually address [them],” said Hernández.
Engel agreed, calling Title 42 a “stop-gap solution.” She pointed out that about half of the people returned to Mexico under Title 42 ended up reentering the country, citing that as a failure of the policy. Like Hernández, Engel said she wanted to see a plan first before rescinding the policy.
“There’s no adjudication of their claim,” said Engel. “Title 42 is not the answer.”
On Tuesday, half of America’s governors launched a strike force to control the ongoing border crisis. The American Governor’s Strike Force was modeled after Governor Doug Ducey’s Arizona Border Strike Force, established in 2015.
“If our entire southern border isn’t secure, our nation isn’t secure,” said Ducey. “As dangerous transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from holes in the border and fill our communities with drugs, it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing historic levels of opioid-related deaths.”
The American Governor’s Strike Force aims to improve intelligence on state crimes traceable to the border, cybersecurity, as well as tracking of drug trafficking and human smuggling.
The coalition of 26 governors launched the strike force in an effort to precede the Biden administration’s plan to lift Title 42 at the end of May. The policy allows expedited deportation of illegal immigrants from the country. Title 42 came into play in early 2020 under former President Donald Trump through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as an effort to control the COVID-19 spread.
As of the latest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, there have been nearly 2.6 million encounters/apprehensions on the southern border since President Joe Biden took office. That doesn’t include “getaways,” estimated to be tens to hundreds of thousands of times more.
By comparison, there were over 2.4 million encounters/apprehensions under Trump’s entire tenure.
2021 under Biden didn’t only reflect record highs in illegal immigrant apprehensions and encounters. Last year, transnational criminal organizations brought in around $3 billion from human smuggling. Additionally, fentanyl overdoses accounted for a record high of more than 77 percent of adolescent deaths in Arizona, as well as resulting in the leading cause of death for individuals aged 19 and younger.
Ducey and Texas Governor Greg Abbott teamed up last December to form the governors’ coalition. The pair recruited 24 other governors: those representing Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
In January, Ducey promised the strike force in his State of the State Address. Ducey characterized the strike force as a solution to the Biden administration’s lack of progress on controlling the border crisis.
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott and I are teaming up to form the American Governors’ Border Strike Force: a commitment between states to do what the Biden administration is unwilling to do: patrol and secure our border,” said Ducey.
Ducey and Abbott’s initiative came after months of negotiations and proposals with the Biden administration to mitigate the crisis. Ducey cataloged those efforts in his latest press release announcing the strike force.
Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) championed their work to mitigate the border crisis Monday, highlighting several key provisions they secured in Congress’ annual budget bill. Their press release came the same day as the latest data was published by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), reporting nearly 165,000 illegal border crossings in February: the highest number for that month since 2000. The record high complements the record 154,000 illegal crossings in January. Those numbers fall in line with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prediction at the onset of this year that the border crisis would worsen throughout 2022.
None of their provisions included finishing the border wall. As AZ Free News reported last month, the Arizona legislature passed two separate bills to finish the border wall, allocating hundreds of millions to cover the remaining 17 miles. The House and Senate must consider the bills passed by the other before they will go before the governor.
Additionally, suggestions by Governor Doug Ducey presented in draft legislation for Sinema and Kelly were recognized and ignored in part. Ducey’s legislation called for border wall completion, physical barriers, and virtual surveillance; requirement that asylum seekers who have traveled through another country attempt to claim asylum in that country; requirement for asylum seekers to claim asylum at a port of entry; an increase in immigration judges; additional funding for local law enforcement and humanitarian efforts; and a clear declaration by the federal government that the borders aren’t open for immigration except through a port of entry and legal means.
Sinema and Kelly’s acquisitions that fulfilled Ducey’s requests were additional funding for local law enforcement and humanitarian efforts, as well as border security technology which includes virtual surveillance. In addition to their other border infrastructure investments, Sinema and Kelly secured over $2.3 billion.
Sinema emphasized that the billions would allow not only American citizens to be kept safe, but to ensure that the illegal immigrants receive fair and humane treatment.
“These critical resources will help secure the border through improved technology and additional personnel, manage the flow of migrants to keep Arizona communities safe, and provide Arizona nonprofits and DHS the resources needed to ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” said Sinema.
Kelly alluded that there wasn’t a guarantee that further border crisis-related burdens wouldn’t befall Arizona in the future.
“The crisis at the border continues to put a strain on our communities and law enforcement as they work to maintain a safe and orderly process. It’s critical that we are bringing needed technology, personnel, and other resources to improve border security,” said Kelly. “I’ll keep working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate and continue pushing the Biden administration to ensure Arizona does not bear the cost of this crisis.”
From 2000 to 2006, the total number of illegal crossings at all borders hovered around one million. Then, from 2007 to 2011, that number dropped steadily from under 900,000 to 340,000. The number of crossings picked up slightly and fluctuated between 300,000 to 500,000 from 2012 to 2018. A sharp spike of 860,000 occurred in 2019, before petering off to 405,000 in 2020.