By Ken Bredemeier
U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday named two critics of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to key border control and immigration positions at a time when federal authorities are struggling to handle a surge of migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden picked Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Arizona, near the U.S.-Mexico border, to lead the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, and Ur Jaddou as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles the country’s legal immigration system.
Both will have to be confirmed by the Senate before assuming duties.
Magnus has been in charge of the Tucson police department since 2016 and has aligned himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that emphasizes a less aggressive, community-based policing model. In Tucson, he led a force of 1,000 officers and staff. By comparison, the Border Protection agency totals about 60,000.
Magnus has opposed efforts to declare Tucson a “sanctuary city” where undocumented immigrants could stay with little fear of being apprehended by federal border patrol agents. But he also has mostly shunned cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, leaving him at loggerheads with the Border Patrol union, including many of the agents and officials who will be under his command if the Senate confirms his nomination.
In a 2017 incident, Tucson police declined to assist the Border Patrol after a suspect escaped from custody.
In a 2018 Facebook post, Border Patrol union officials called Magnus “an ultraliberal social engineer who was given a badge and a gun by the City of Tucson.”
Jaddou, a former general counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, worked for the Washington-based immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice during the Trump administration as director of DHS Watch. The group sought to hold the Department of Homeland Security, which houses immigration and border security agencies, accountable for its actions and frequently criticized Trump’s policies.
Last August, Jaddou said a citizenship naturalization ceremony during the Republican National Convention “belies the reality of the Trump administration’s abysmal record on naturalization and immigration over the last 3 ½ years.”
Biden, a Democrat, has eased many of his Republican predecessor’s restrictive immigration policies, halting the construction of a border wall and refusing to expel unaccompanied migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden has maintained that the border is closed to immigrants, but Republicans accuse him of triggering one of the biggest migrant surges in the last 15 years, with U.S. agents taking more than 172,000 border crossers into custody in March.
Democrats have generally applauded Biden’s immigration policies as more humane than his predecessor’s, although several prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in describing the massive migrant influx as a crisis for which the new administration was unprepared.
Magnus is a member of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, a partner to the National Immigration Forum, which says local police should not involve themselves in federal immigration enforcement.
Last year, the Police Executive Research Forum, which works with departments across the U.S., gave its leadership award to Magnus, saying he had “created new programs that serve as models for police agencies across the country.”
Magnus offered to resign as Tucson police chief last year after a man died in police custody in an incident in which he said he could not breathe after being handcuffed and restrained face down. But the Tucson city manager rejected the offer.