Chris Magnus, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, speaks during his confirmation hearing in 2021.

Chris Magnus, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, speaks during his confirmation hearing in 2021. Stefani Reynolds for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Republicans Call for the Resignation of a Key DHS Official They Claim Is 'Unengaged'

The component chief is facing allegations of failing to engage with his agency and falling asleep during meetings.

More than a dozen House Republicans are calling for the head of Customs and Border Protection to resign, citing a report that he is “unengaged” in his job and failing to fulfill all of his duties. 

In a letter to President Biden, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., led his colleagues in calling CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus “asleep at the wheel” and said Magnus must be replaced to “ensure our national security.” The House members noted the Southwest border is experiencing an unprecedented uptick in illegal border crossings, making it a critical time for focused leadership. 

The letter follows a report in Politico last month in which five anonymous administration officials said Magnus was not attending key White House meetings related to border security and failed to build intra- and inter-agency relationships. Magnus was not engaging in the specifics of CBP operations, the officials said, instead focusing only on changing the culture of the agency in response to previous instances of its workforce engaging in racist behavior. Several officials also said they had seen Magnus fall asleep during key meetings. 

“It is critical to secure our borders and that requires an engaged commissioner leading [the Border Patrol] toward success in its three core missions of counterterrorism, border security and trade enforcement,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter

CBP declined to comment on the letter, instead sharing Magnus’ response to Politicos story. The commissioner said he has been closely involved in key policy discussions and frequently shared his insights from frontline personnel. He acknowledged he had a learning curve when joining the agency, which drew the ire of the House Republicans. 

Given the circumstances at the border, they said, “there is simply no time for on-the-job training.” Magnus joined CBP after leading several local police forces, but without federal experience. 

Border Patrol encounters increased by 300% in fiscal 2021. Through July, the encounters in fiscal 2022 had already topped the total for fiscal 2021. The Border Patrol has now had more than 2 million encounters with migrants in the current fiscal year, an all-time record.

Magnus acknowledged that his multiple sclerosis has made him tired at times and he has worked with his doctors to adjust his medications. Ultimately, however, he said his detractors are taking out their frustration on him because of his determination to shake things up. 

“I’ve always been someone who aggressively questions the status quo, looks for ways to do things better, and engages directly with the public and workforce,” Magnus said. “In any organization, some people are threatened by this. They don’t like it when someone questions ‘why’ certain things must be done the way they’ve always been done.” 

He demonstrated no willingness to step down from his role. 

“I’m not here to back down to the predictable challenges from those people, but instead to make real improvements within our agency that will benefit our employees and the public,” he said. 

Hice is currently the top Republican on the Government Operations panel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and could be in line to take over its chairmanship if Republicans win control of the House in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans have suggested they will make border security a key focus of their oversight agenda and Hice would be well positioned to continue to push for new leadership at CBP. 

“Mr. President, it is imperative that the leader of CBP not only understand the border but has a deep and keen understanding of immigration policies,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “Therefore, Mr. President, we ask that you request the resignation of Commissioner Magnus effective immediately to ensure our national security.”