President Biden’s nominee to head Customs and Border Protection wouldn’t call the surge of migrants at the border a “crisis” and came under intense questioning about his plans to take control of the situation and whether the administration’s failure to enforce immigration laws was enticing people to trek to the US.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) asked Chris Magnus if the situation at the border constituted a crisis during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
“Let me assure you that no one believes there is greater urgency to this matter than I do,” Magnus replied.
Young then said that answer struck him to mean “less than a crisis,” while adding that border officials apprehended more than 1.3 million immigrants this fiscal year.
“What number of illegal crossings would you consider to be a crisis?” Young asked. “What if we were to quintuple that number, would you then call it a crisis?”
“Regardless of what we call it, it is something important to me,” Magnus said.
Biden’s selection of Magnus has been embroiled in controversy since the announcement was made in April.
Magnus’ support for Black Lives Matter, his defense of sanctuary cities and pushback against former President Donald Trump’s orders to deport undocumented immigrants has led many to question his ability to lead CBP.
Other senators at the hearing tailored their questioning around a directive issued at the end of last month by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that migrants in the country illegally “should not alone be the basis” for apprehending and deporting them.
“Do you agree with me that the decision by Secretary Mayorkas to no longer detain or deport people who enter the country illegally is a pull factor, which encourages more people to make that long, dangerous trip?” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked.
”There are both strong push and pull factors out there,” Magnus responded.
“Would you agree with me that a policy of non-enforcement is a pull factor that is encouraging more illegal immigration,” Cornyn pressed.
“There are many factors that contribute to this,” Magnus, the police chief of Tucson, Ariz., said.
”Is that one of them?” Cornyn demanded.
“It is certainly one part of it, yes, sir,” Magnus answered.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) followed up on Cornyn’s line of questioning.
He asked Magnus if the failure to enforce immigration laws acts as an incentive to migrants.
“If the incentives suggest that you can come here illegally and there’s no consequence to that, then I think more people are going to come here illegally. Would you not agree with that?” Thune asked.
“Senator, I agree that enforcing the law is necessary and appropriate, the numbers are high, as a law enforcement official I again will pledge to enforce the law,” Magnus said.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.) noted the” skyrocketing” number of immigrants crossing the border and the continuing flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the US and asked Magnus to detail his plans.
“Of course, if there was a ready-to-go plan to address all the problems that you’ve just described, my guess is that not only CPB but you all as a body would have seen to it that it was implemented,” Magnus responded.
He went on to talk about building relationships and said it’s important to provide “accurate feedback” to the members of the administration making those policies.