President Joe Biden on Monday announced a number of nominations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including two who were oftentimes frequent critics of the previous president’s anti-immigrant policies and, if confirmed, will now lead top immigration agencies with the department.
The New York Times reports that the president has nominated “progressive” Tucson, Arizona, police chief Chris Magnus to be the new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner, and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief counsel and immigrant rights advocate Ur Jaddou to be the agency’s new director.
The president’s nomination of Magnus, who is openly gay, marks a significant shift (to say the least) from former acting commissioner Mark Morgan, who joined an anti-immigrant hate group since the previous administration ended.
Biden “chose not a veteran of the agency but rather a progressive police chief who promoted community policing efforts while overseeing departments in Tucson and Richmond, Calif,” the report said. “Mr. Biden was compelled to choose him because of those efforts to reform departments, as well as his recent work policing a city close to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a White House official.”
Like The Times notes, Magnus was critical of former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s attacks on so-called “sanctuary cities,” penning an op-ed in the newspaper in 2017. He wrote at the time that “Tucson is not technically a sanctuary city. But we are close to the border with Mexico and take pride in being welcoming to immigrants. Yet the government has warned us that our grants are in danger.”
Magnus warned that “harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and Mr. Sessions’s reckless policies ignore a basic reality known by most good cops and prosecutors: If people are afraid of the police, if they fear they may become separated from their families or harshly interrogated based on their immigration status, they won’t report crimes or come forward as witnesses.”
Before being named to the Biden transition team, Jaddou served as former USCIS chief counsel under the Obama administration and then as DHS Watch director, shining a light on USCIS’s radicalization under the previous administration.
In her selection to the transition team, BuzzFeed News journalist Hamed Aleaziz had noted it was “a sign that the upcoming Biden admin understands that USCIS will need to be a big focus—it's less well known as ICE but has been transformed under Trump.” I mean, the illegal appointment of anti-immigrant loudmouth Ken Cuccinelli to the agency says it all. And, in the final weeks of the previous administration, USCIS was among the agencies ordered to not make any contact with the president-elect’s team.
“Glad to see the Biden Admin appoint highly qualified people to get the job done, especially @UrJaddou who will bring years of immigration experience and knowledge of USCIS to #holdUSCISaccountable,” tweeted American Immigration Lawyers Association director of government relations Shev Dalal-Dheini. “No surprise at all that Ur Jaddou (an excellent choice) will be leading USCIS, but the choice of CBP Commissioner is fascinating,” tweeted American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “A ‘progressive police chief’ from a border town is a very, very different choice than normal.”
While CBP now has a nominated commissioner, The Times notes the Biden administration still has not nominated anyone to ICE, which has not had a Senate-confirmed director since the end of the Obama administration. The previous administration’s acting director, Tae Johnson, was left in that position by the new administration.