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Tucson police chief faces tough questioning from Senate committee in bid to lead CBP

Chris Magnus’ hearing took place Tuesday after being nominated for the position in April.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 1:20 PM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - An Arizona police chief is moving closer to leading U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

President Joe Biden nominated Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus for the position in April, but his hearing was held up by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) over a separate issue.

Tuesday Magnus finally sat in the hot seat at the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Wyden.

From migrants approaching and entering the country’s southern border, to hundreds of cargo ships backed up off California’s coast, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a critical role in each.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Magnus was challenged on a wide range of issues, and he faced the political pressure from both sides of the aisle.

He was first introduced by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

Sinema said, “Having someone like Chief Magnus leading CBP is the best way our nation can better secure our border.”

Kelly said, “We have gotten to know Chief Magnus as a committed public servant.”

Magnus repeatedly explained to the committee why he is best to lead CBP.

In his opening statement, he said, “I want to make a difference. CBP is a proud agency with a mission that is vital to this country.”

According the CBP data, border agents on the southwest border have had more than 1.5 million encounters this year.

Magnus told senators that he believes this presents one of the most serious problems facing the country but stopped short of calling it a crisis as multiple Republican senators pressed him to do.

Sen. Todd Young, (R-IN), asked Magnus, “Is there a crisis or is there not a crisis at the border?”

Magnus responded, “Senator, I would say that my highest priority is going to be…”

Young cut off Magnus and said, “I didn’t ask your priority…”

Humane treatment of migrants, whether during encounters at the border or at holding facilities, was a key focus for several on the Democratic side.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA) said, “Inhumane treatment of migrants and asylum seekers is unacceptable in our nation.”

Recently, border patrol agents were overwhelmed by Haitian migrants on the southern border in Del Rio, Texas. That’s where images emerged of a border agent who appearing to chase migrants on horseback. There’s currently an investigation of the agents involved.

Magnus said, “I found those images troubling, but I also believe – and I’ve certainly learned this over my career in policing – that a full and thorough investigation is necessary before any final conclusions are drawn.”

Magnus also said migrants crossing the border should be vaccinated against COVID-19, and said he believes some parts of a border wall should continue being built along with added technology.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said he wants to move Magnus’ nomination along quickly… but no firm timeline for votes has been set.

The White House declined our request to interview Magnus until the confirmation process is complete.

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