Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief Christopher Magnus told multiple outlets Friday that he has no plans to step down despite being told by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that he should resign or expect to be fired shortly.
“I want to make this clear: I have no plans to resign as CBP Commissioner,” Magnus said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “I didn’t take this job as a resume builder. I came to Washington, DC — moved my family here — because I care about this agency, its mission, and the goals of this Administration.”
The pressure on Magnus, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, came to a head Wednesday when Mayorkas and Magnus met over Magnus’s decision not to continue a retention bonus for Border Patrol head Raul Ortiz. Magnus has butted heads with Ortiz over how to reform the agency.
The day before, Magnus also attended a meeting of Border Patrol chiefs after Mayorkas had told him not to go.
“After me making extensive attempts to reach [Mayorkas] and discuss the matter, I went to the meeting so I could engage with the chiefs on various issues and concerns. I also met with Chief Ortiz to see how we might best work together moving forward,” Magnus told the Times in an interview.
When the two finally did meet, Mayorkas encouraged him to resign.
“I expressed to him that I felt there was no justification for me to resign when I still cared deeply about the work I was doing and felt that that work was focused on the things I was hired to do in the first place,” Magnus told the Times.
Neither CBP nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to request from The Hill.
It’s been a rocky few months for Mangus, a former police chief in Tuscon, Arizona and Richmond, California, near San Francisco.
Shortly before the midterm elections, GOP lawmakers wrote to Biden asking him to fire Magnus citing a Politico article based on interviews with administration officials who described him as unfamiliar with some CBP operations while being too focused on changing the culture of the agency.
Magnus was chosen by Biden in part because he spoke out against the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants and its negative effect on relations between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Still, Magnus’s background in policing rather than immigration and border enforcement raised some questions about his ability to take on a complex agency amid historically high border crossings.
“More than ever, we need a commissioner who understands the complexity of border policy and the innerworkings of the CBP agency. Commissioner Magnus has admitted that during his first ten months in office he spent more time learning the ‘many complex areas of CBP’ rather than leading on the massive issues at the border,’” the lawmakers wrote.
And on Thursday, the agency faced criticism from Democrats, who wrote to Magnus and the head of CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility asking why they failed to interview Haitians in a report about an incident in which migrants from the country were corralled by Border Patrol officers on horseback.
“The apparent failure of CBP OPR to interview any member of a group of individuals who were directly and crucially involved in the incident means that CBP OPR has released a report based on an inadequate and incomplete investigation. These deficiencies in the investigation also raise concerns as to what additional information CBP OPR may have excluded,” lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Rafael Bernal contributed.