The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus as the new commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States.

Senators voted 50-47 to confirm Magnus, who will go from managing an Arizona city police force of 1,000 employees to overseeing 60,000 federal personnel and a budget of $16 billion, as the Biden administration struggles with a major border crisis. Most Republican senators opposed the nominee.


President Joe Biden nominated Magnus, 61, in April to take over CBP. Troy Miller, the director of CBP’s New York Field Office, has been acting commissioner since shortly after Biden assumed office in January. The agency, which inspects passengers and vehicles seeking admission to the United States at land ports of entry, seaports, and airports, has been without a confirmed leader as illegal migration at the southern border has risen to the highest level in U.S. history.

Magnus is originally from Michigan and graduated from the police academy at Lansing Community College before going on to receive a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in labor relations at Michigan State University.

He worked for the Lansing Police Department and moved in 1999 to Fargo, North Dakota, where he oversaw the city's police force. In 2006, he moved to Richmond, California, to head its police department. While in Richmond, he was photographed in 2014 holding a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest.

In 2014, Magnus married his partner, Terrance Cheung, the chief of staff to the Richmond mayor. Two years later, Magnus became chief of the Tucson Police Department.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, initially held up the nomination process earlier this year to pressure Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to review department practices that allowed Trump administration officials to deploy CBP law enforcement to Portland in mid-2020 in an attempt to quell riots and violence downtown that lasted for several months.

Magnus has followed the lead of the Biden administration, declining during his confirmation hearing in October to call the situation at the southern border a "crisis," angering Republicans. However, the Arizona resident said a border wall "could make sense" in some areas of the U.S.-Mexico boundary, contradicting the Biden administration's opposition to physical barriers. The Biden administration stopped billions of dollars of border wall projects earlier this year, and Magnus would not be able to restart those projects as CBP commissioner.

Rather than nominate a CBP career official for the job, the Biden administration selected someone outside the agency. Magnus is largely in step with the administration's views on immigration and border policy, and he occasionally denounced Trump administration policies on Twitter.

Magnus's department has come under scrutiny several times, including recently for his officers' conduct in fatal incidents. In late November, a Tucson police officer working as an off-duty security guard at Walmart fatally shot a 61-year-old man in a mobility scooter who was attempting to steal a toolbox. The officer, Ryan Remington, fired nine times at the suspect.


Magnus abruptly deleted his Twitter account last week.