The head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is facing a slew of accusations of incompetence and disinterest in running the border agency, from critics both outside and inside the administration — and is hitting back at those who he accuses of trafficking in “deliberate ignorance.”
Politico published a scathing piece on Monday which outlined concerns from multiple current administration officials about CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus’ that he is unengaged, does not attend White House meetings, is unfamiliar with CBP operations and has fallen asleep during meetings he has attended. The criticism was notable for coming from within the administration.
Magnus was also accused of having tried to shift blame to other agencies for the crisis at the border, and of having failed to build interagency relations while also spending much of his time focusing on accusations of racism and violence leveled at Border Patrol agents or listing complaints about Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“He’s not in the game,” one unnamed official told the outlet. “Every time there’s a meeting and he’s in it, we’ll get to a conclusion and Magnus will have some sidebar issue that he wants to raise and we’re all like ‘What the f— is that about?’”
Former CBP officials told Fox News Digital that they were not surprised by the criticisms being leveled at Magnus, who they also painted as both unprepared for the job and opposed to the enforcement mission of Border Patrol.
Former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, who was removed by the Biden administration shortly before Magnus was confirmed, shared many of the concerns himself after he briefed Magnus for his confirmation and was left unimpressed with what he saw.
“I briefed him on several different occasions and, to be quite honest, I was really disappointed in the administration’s choice for somebody to run such an important organization. He was really disinterested in the mission.”
Scott says when he first briefed the nominee, Magnus looked at a slideshow of the organizational structure of the Border Patrol and asked how many people he could move around “without cause.” Scott said the remark upset his staff and required him to calm them down.
Several briefings later, Scott said Magnus showed his lack of familiarity with CBP’s immigration authorities under Title 8 of the U.S. Code.
“He stopped me again, and he was like: ‘Hey, what was that Title 8 thing again?’” Scott said.
Scott said Magnus’ lack of knowledge of the basics of CBP enforcement, after multiple briefings, left him shaking his head.
“When…after being briefed by lawyers, agents and leadership for a couple of months, you’re still asking questions [like] what is Title 8? That’s incompetence,” he said.
Scott said the distrust of Magnus was present across multiple levels of the agency.
“It’s not just Border Patrol, I was hearing from people…civilians, people in the Office of Field Operations, anybody that is trying to actually enforce the laws of the U.S. or believes in the mission of CBP, they just never seen anything like this,” he said.
Magnus, a former Tucson police chief, had raised concerns from immigration hawks and Republicans when he was nominated for his record of having supported “sanctuary” policies and of having pushed back against Trump-era immigration enforcement.
Former acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan accused the Biden administration of ignoring Magnus’ lack of federal experience to promote someone who was in line with a “woke agenda” — and slammed the administration for ignoring red flags about his nomination.
“Magnus served as a small-town cop most of his career and as a Chief, oversaw less than 800 sworn officers,” he told Fox News Digital. “He had never held a single position in federal law enforcement prior to his selection, nor did he have any experience in commanding a federal agency encompassing a vast and complex global mission.”
Morgan said his experience did not set him out for overseeing the largest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S.
“He was and remains completely unqualified for the job. But that’s exactly what the Biden administration wanted. A man who was tied to their politically-driven, ideology based open border policies,” he said. “Qualifications be damned.”
The criticisms from within the administration, which included him leaving high-level interagency calls to deputies, were similarly blistering.
“Operationally he’s not even in the conversation,” one official told Politico. “He knows the border, but the ins-and-outs and the size and capabilities of CBP is pretty far outside his remit and understanding how to deal with other parts of the administration.”
Magnus pushed back against the claims in the Politico article in a lengthy statement in which he said he cares “a great deal about CBP and the people who work here.”
“In the 10 months I’ve been CBP’s Commissioner, I’ve gotten up to speed on the agency’s many complex areas of responsibility. While CBP is an operational—not a policy-making—agency, I’ve been closely involved in the major DHS immigration, border security, trade, and other policy discussions throughout my time as Commissioner. I frequently share insights from CBP’s frontline law enforcement and civilian personnel in those discussions and will continue to do so,” he said.
He then also appeared to take aim at his critics within the administration, suggesting he was getting pushback for questioning “the status quo.”
“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. In any organization, some people are threatened by this,” he said. “They don’t like it when someone questions ‘why’ certain things must be done the way they’ve always been done. 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.”
As for claims he fell asleep in meetings, he said that tiredness was a side effect of his multiple sclerosis and that he has since adjusted his medication and now intends “to remain fully engaged in the work of leading CBP and advocating on behalf of those who work here as well as for the American public.”
Magnus has also made official visits to Mexico twice this year, as well as a meeting last week with the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute for discussions on cooperation with Mexico on dealing with migration flows – just as the two countries have been ramping up collaboration on the border.
On Tuesday he issued an additional statement, in which he posted a screenshot of a quote from motivational speaker Zig Ziglar and said that he is “ignoring the clutter and nonsense from critics who speak with authority but traffic in deliberate ignorance.”
In a statement, a DHS spokesperson told Fox News Digital that CBP “has a broad national security and law enforcement mission that includes facilitating lawful trade and travel, securing our borders, and keeping harmful, counterfeit or illicit products from coming into our country.”
“On Border Security, CBP is a critical component of the DHS-led $60 million anti-human smuggler campaign that has already led to 5,000 arrests with our partners, and we’re mobilizing additional personnel to support the Border Patrol,” the spokesperson said. “Commissioner Magnus plays a key role in all of this, and that’s where our focus remains.”
Meanwhile, some of Magnus’ critics on the right also used the saga to take aim at the administration for allegedly “distracting” from the ongoing crisis at the southern border — which has so far seen more then 2.1 million migrant encounters at the southern border this fiscal year alone.
Morgan noted the recent moves by the administration to expand Title 42 expulsions to Venezuelans, even after it fought to shut down the Trump-era authority in court.
“I’m not sure which is worse – the unparalleled hypocrisy coming from this administration as they expand the use of Trump-era policies as a political stunt pretending to care about border security weeks before the midterm elections, or the irony of attacking the guy who is behaving exactly as they hoped he would as a distraction to their self-inflicted disaster at our southern border,” he said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, claimed in a tweet that the administration is “trying to set [Magnus] up as the border-crisis fall guy for [Mayorkas] — don’t be distracted.”