President Biden will nominate Chris Magnus, the police chief of Tucson, Ariz., and a critic of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies, to lead Customs and Border Protection, one of six new installments of leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.
If confirmed, Mr. Magnus would step into a politically divisive challenge facing the Biden administration: how to handle a record number of border crossings that are projected to increase in the coming months. The administration has failed to safely move thousands of children and teenagers from jails run by the Border Patrol into shelters throughout the United States.
Members of Congress have called for additional accountability measures at Customs and Border Protection after it was revealed in 2019 that dozens of border agents had joined private Facebook groups and other social media pages that included obscene images of Hispanic lawmakers and threats to members of Congress. D.H.S. has also faced an investigation from the department’s Office of the Inspector General for its aggressive tactics against protesters in Portland, Ore.
Mr. Biden, who campaigned on increasing oversight at Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, chose not a veteran of the agency but rather a progressive police chief who promoted community policing efforts while overseeing departments in Tucson and Richmond, Calif. Mr. Biden was compelled to choose him because of those efforts to reform departments, as well as his recent work policing a city close to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a White House official.
Mr. Magnus, who is white and gay, received national attention when a photograph of him in uniform holding a Black Lives Matter sign during a protest in Richmond went viral. It also sparked criticism from the local police union. Last June, he abruptly offered to resign as chief of the Tucson police while releasing a video in which a 27-year-old Latino man, Carlos Ingram Lopez, died in custody. Mayor Regina Romero expressed confidence in Mr. Magnus and kept him on the job.
He also publicly criticized the immigration policies of President Donald J. Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as hindering police efforts to crack down on crime.
“The harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and Mr. Sessions’s reckless policies ignore a basic reality known by most good cops and prosecutors,” Mr. Magnus wrote in a New York Times opinion piece in 2017. “If people are afraid of the police, if they fear they may become separated from their families or harshly interrogated based on their immigration status, they won’t report crimes or come forward as witnesses.”
Mr. Magnus last year also declined to accept homeland security “Stonegarden” grants issued to local police departments that assist the federal government on border enforcement, after the Trump administration refused to allow a portion of the funds to be spent on humanitarian aid for asylum-seeking migrants.
The nominations unveiled on Monday also include top cybersecurity officials, a sign of the administration’s intent to prioritize cyberattacks as a top national security threat. Jen Easterly, Morgan Stanley’s head of resilience and a former senior official at the National Security Agency, was tapped to lead the Homeland Security Department’s cybersecurity branch, and Robert Silvers, a top cybersecurity official at the department during the Obama administration, was picked to be under secretary for policy.
Mr. Biden will also nominate Jonathan Meyer, another Obama administration official, to return to the department as general counsel, and John Tien, the former National Security Council senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to serve as deputy secretary.
Ur Jaddou, who worked as chief counsel at Citizenship and Immigration Services before leading an immigration advocacy group, was tapped to lead the immigration agency.
The officials would work under Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the first immigrant to run the department responsible not only for border security and immigration policies, but also providing a coordinated defense against terrorism, maritime, aviation and cybersecurity threats. During the Trump administration, the department was riddled with vacancies and interim leaders and was accused of having a unilateral focus on the border with Mexico, whether it be separating children from their parents or building a wall there.
The administration still has not nominated anyone to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that investigates sex and drug trafficking organizations and deports undocumented immigrants.