One agent protested that he did not be a part of the Border Patrol to take care of youngsters in custody. One other requested why a coverage to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for courtroom hearings wasn’t getting used extra. And one turned his again on the senior officers who had come to hear.
Unsurprisingly for anybody who’s been monitoring migration alongside america’ southern border, the latest showdown occurred in Yuma, Arizona, the place encounters with migrants illegally crossing into the nation from Mexico jumped greater than 20-fold in December from a yr earlier.
Discontent among the many ranks is barely one of many challenges Chris Magnus faces as the brand new chief of america’ largest legislation enforcement company. Magnus, who was sworn on this month as commissioner of the Border Patrol’s mum or dad company, Customs and Border Safety, additionally faces persistent allegations that his company is mistreating migrants, failing to recruit extra ladies and is on the mercy of a damaged asylum system.
Magnus would possibly look like an unconventional decide. When he was the police chief in Tucson, Arizona, he rejected federal grants to collaborate on border safety with the company he now leads and saved a distance from Border Patrol leaders in a area the place 1000’s of brokers are assigned.
In his first interview as commissioner, Magnus acknowledged morale issues and outlined some preliminary steps meant to repair them. He had no easy reply to handle migration flows.
“There have at all times been durations of migrant surges into this nation for various causes, at completely different instances,” he stated final week. “However I don’t assume anyone disputes that the numbers are excessive proper now and that we have now to work as many alternative methods as doable to cope with these excessive numbers.”
Magnus famous the rising variety of migrants who’re from nations exterior of Mexico and Central America, a pattern that has been particularly robust in Yuma.
Underneath a public well being order often known as Title 42 that was designed to restrict the unfold of COVID-19, Mexico takes again migrants from the U.S. who’re from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador and are denied an opportunity to hunt asylum. Different nationalities are eligible for expulsion, however the U.S. usually received’t fly them dwelling because of the expense or strained diplomatic relations with their dwelling nations. As an alternative, they’re usually rapidly launched within the U.S. to pursue asylum.
“There’s numerous frustration,” stated Rafael Rivera, president of the Nationwide Border Patrol Council Native 2595, a union that represents brokers within the patrol’s Yuma sector, which has seen an enormous improve in such migrants. “They really feel like there’s no penalties, that we have now an open border.”
In December, U.S. officers stopped Venezuelans on the border practically 25,000 instances, which was greater than double September’s rely and greater than 100 instances the roughly 200 they made in December 2020. Venezuelans trailed solely Mexicans within the quantity stopped on the U.S. border in December.
Within the Yuma sector, which stretches from California’s Imperial Sand Dunes to western Arizona’s desert and rocky mountain ranges, Venezuelans have been stopped practically 10 instances greater than Mexicans in December. Colombians, Indians, Cubans and Haitians additionally outnumbered Mexicans.
Mexico started requiring visas for Venezuelans on Jan. 21, Homeland Safety Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas famous throughout his contentious Jan. 26 assembly with Yuma brokers, in response to a recording leaked to the web site Townhall, which publishes conservative viewpoints. He stated the U.S. was urgent Mexico to simply accept extra nationalities below Title 42 authority and to extend immigration enforcement inside its personal borders.
Magnus, who stories to Mayorkas, advised the AP that migration flows are “more and more advanced” and that the U.S. was “doing our greatest to construct and make the most of relationships with these completely different nations that migrants are coming from.”
Though President Joe Biden faces lots of the identical challenges as his predecessors, Donald Trump visited the border usually, spent massively on enforcement and obtained an early endorsement from the brokers’ union in 2016.
As a Biden appointee and an outsider who had a cold relationship with Border Patrol leaders in Tucson, Magnus would possibly wrestle successful over brokers.
Roy Villareal, chief of the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector from early 2019 till late 2020, stated he sought an introductory assembly with Magnus, who was then Tucson’s police chief, however that he by no means heard again, calling their lack of interplay “a telling signal.” Villareal might recall chatting with Magnus solely thrice throughout their overlapping tenures — every one a courtesy name from Magnus to tell him that Tucson police have been about to arrest one among his brokers.
“He’s the unsuitable particular person for the Border Patrol,” stated Villareal, who retired after 32 years within the company. “His information and understanding of border enforcement simply isn’t there. … Brokers will problem him.”
Others think about Magnus an excellent match.
“He’s very revered amongst his colleagues,” stated Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief whose deal with use of pressure rankled some brokers when he held Magnus’ job from 2014 to 2017. “Chris’ background on holding individuals accountable is fairly intensive.”
Magnus, 61, was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan, the place he served stints as an emergency dispatcher, paramedic, sheriff’s deputy and police captain. He was police chief in Fargo, North Dakota, and Richmond, California, earlier than he took the job in Tucson in January 2016. In that newest position, he took orders from elected leaders within the liberal metropolis of greater than 500,000 individuals.
In Tucson, Magnus created a program to steer individuals away from medicine, labored with nonprofits serving to homeless individuals and overhauled the division’s use-of-force coverage. He brazenly criticized Trump insurance policies for making migrants extra reluctant to share details about crimes with police.
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CBP critics in Tucson give Magnus combined critiques. Vicki Gaubeca, of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, stated he championed “some very progressive insurance policies,” however that the Border Patrol wants a visionary who will change what she calls a deep-seated “tradition of impunity.”
In his closing weeks as police chief, Magnus referred to as for the firing of an off-duty officer who shot and killed a suspected shoplifter in a motorized wheelchair, saying it was “a transparent violation of division coverage.” The officer left the division final month.
And in 2020, Magnus supplied to resign over an in-custody demise that the division did not make public for 2 months, however the metropolis supervisor requested him to remain.
One longstanding difficulty Magnus faces is allegations of brokers utilizing extreme pressure. Brokers have been concerned in an growing variety of use-of-force incidents and there have been extra fatalities involving Border Patrol brokers, although the variety of encounters surged at an excellent larger charge.
Magnus stated using pressure is a “very critical concern” and that he believes the overwhelming majority of brokers act responsibly. He additionally defended specialised groups that accumulate proof in incidents which may contain brokers’ extreme use of pressure. Democratic congressional leaders have expressed critical considerations in regards to the Essential Incident Groups, which some activists allege are shadowy cover-up operations.
“That is actually common in most police companies,” Magnus advised the AP. “There’s completely no purpose why educated investigators within the subject can’t be gathering this sort of vital proof.”
Fox reported from Washington and Snow reported from Phoenix.