Border Patrol Morale

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus speaks during an interview in his office Feb. 8 with The Associated Press in Washington. Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said Friday he was asked to resign but is refusing to do so.

In a statement to The Times, Magnus said he was asked by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to step down or face firing. He said he was not and defended his record, including internal reforms, border security and pursuit policies.

“I am excited about the progress I made and look forward continuing that work,” he said.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Magnus described in detail the events that led to the disagreement.

On Wednesday, Mayorkas told Magnus he had lost confidence in Magnus in a conversation between the two. The meeting came after the commissioner had decided to not continue a “retention” bonus for the head of Border Patrol, Raul Ortiz. Magnus had told Mayorkas previously that Ortiz did not share his philosophy and approach to reforms.

On Tuesday, Magnus had also gone to a meeting of border patrol chiefs in El Paso after Mayorkas had ordered him not to, Magnus said.


“After me making extensive attempts to reach [Mayorkas] and discuss the matter, I went to the meeting so I could engage with the chiefs on various issues and concerns. I also met with Chief Ortiz to see how we might best work together moving forward,” he said.

In the meeting with Mayorkas on Wednesday, Magnus was told to resign or Mayorkas would recommend to President Biden that he be fired, Mangus said. Then, on Thursday, John Tien, the second in command at DHS, also told Magnus that he should resign or he would be fired within the next few days, he said.

“I expressed to him that I felt there was no justification for me to resign when I still cared deeply about the work I was doing and felt that that work was focused on the things I was hired to do in the first place,” Magnus said.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment.

Magnus, a former Tuscon and Richmond, California, police chief, said he knew that resignation was often the route others would have gone but that he would not.

His agency has faced criticism for the way it treats migrants as well as increases in the number of migrants coming to the border. He has focused on trying to reform the culture of the agency. There have been reports about internal criticism of his management style.

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