Customs and Border Protection chief resigns after first refusing request to step down

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has accepted the resignation of the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency in charge of border security, according to the White House.

Chris Magnus had initially refused to step down from his job after a request by the Biden administration, an official from the Department of Homeland Security told NBC News.

On Saturday night, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that Biden had accepted Magnus’ resignation and thanked him for his service to the agency. The statement included a copy of Magnus’ resignation letter, dated Saturday.

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Senate confirmed Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the past year. It has been a privilege and honor to be part of your administration,” the letter said. “I am submitting my resignation effective immediately but wish you and your administration the very best going forward.”

As the head of CBP, Magnus, 62, oversees more than 60,000 employees whose missions focus on counterterrorism, border security and trade enforcement.

The Los Angeles Times was first to report the news that Magnus was asked to resign.

Magnus has served in the role since December 2021 after being narrowly confirmed by the Senate in a 50-47 mostly party-line vote. He had previously served as chief of police in Tucson, Ariz., from 2016 to 2020, resigning after a civilian died while in police custody. Magnus has also worked as police chief in Richmond, Calif., and in Fargo, N.D. Early on in his law enforcement career, he also spent 15 years as a police officer in Lansing, Mich.

The clash between the Biden administration and Magnus comes after a Politico report published in October said five current administration officials “portrayed him as unengaged in his job, saying he often doesn’t attend White House meetings on the situation on the border, badmouths other agencies to colleagues and superiors, and has not built relationships within CBP and across other agencies to address the influx of migrants at the border.” NBC News has not confirmed the report.

Biden and congressional Democrats have been inundated with criticism from Republicans, who sought to make the influx of migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border a major issue during the midterms.

Magnus blamed Republican governors in September for drawing more migrants to the U.S. by promising them free bus rides north to places like New York, Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He said in an interview that in some cases, the governors of Texas, Arizona and Florida were “lying” to migrants about what opportunities might await them in those cities and that it is “luring” others to come to the U.S. 

In mid-September, NBC News reported there was friction between the Biden White House and senior DHS officials over how to handle immigration, as the number of undocumented migrants crossing the southern border kept rising and Republican governors sent migrants to more Democratic-run cities.

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