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In Magnus, advocates hope for more transparency in CBP

Chris Magnus
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
editorial | staff
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus speaks during a press conference on Nov. 2, 2018.

This week, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus became the first Customs and Border Protection commissioner since 2018 to be approved by a Senate vote

Senators last voted to approve Kevin McAleenan, a long-time agency official nominated by former President Donald Trump. But he left the post a year later after getting tapped as Trump's acting Department of Homeland Security. His replacements were never confirmed. 

Magnus comes to the agency amid a record number of apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border and as the Biden administration continues the use of asylum-restricting policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols and the pandemic policy, Title 42. 

But advocates hope he'll bring more transparency to an agency often criticized for lacking it. Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent turned whistleblower, said that can be difficult to achieve because investigations into allegations of misconduct are carried out internally and often aren't made public.  

"When they do fire somebody or they do change somebody, it’s very difficult to figure out what it is exactly that they did. So everything is secret ... like to keep the reputation of CBP and Border Patrol as the most honorable," she said. 

Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promised a swift internal probe when Border Patrol agents on horseback were photographed aggressively grabbing and dispersing Haitian migrants who had gathered to claim asylum under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. 

But last month, the agency’s inspector general said it was not taking the case, opting instead to send the investigation to CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility. 

Budd says until those investigations are carried out by a separate entity, transparency will remain elusive.  

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.