Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee

Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Ore.) is stalling President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE’s nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an effort to unearth more details about government surveillance of protesters in Portland last summer.

Biden nominated Tucson, Ariz., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead CBP in April, tapping a vocal critic of former President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE’s immigration policies to lead the agency.

While Wyden congratulated Magnus on his nomination earlier this year, his role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which conducts oversight of CBP, gives him a perch to push for answers amid reports the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) surveilled both protesters and journalists covering the demonstrations.

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“Six months into the new administration, the Department[s] of Homeland Security and Justice have failed to answer basic questions about how the Trump administration misused federal resources to stoke violence against peaceful protesters in my hometown,” Wyden said in a statement.

“While it is clear that Customs and Border Protection faces pressing issues, as the senior senator from Oregon, I am unable to advance this nominee until DHS and DOJ give Oregonians some straight answers about what they were up to in Portland last year, and who was responsible,” he said.

Wyden had previously sent a letter to both DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking information about various efforts under the Trump administration as protesters were demonstrating following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

While the agencies sent some information to Wyden’s office, they deemed the response insufficient.

Wyden is not the first lawmakers to stall nominees under Biden, but he is the first Democrat. Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's MORE (R-Okla.) have stalled DHS nominees due to concerns over the U.S-Mexico border. And Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (R-Mo.) attempted to block Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley: Tech groups urge Congress to 'dig deeper' on Facebook role in Capitol riot | Kaseya denies paying hackers for decryption key | Tech coalition expands tracking of extremist content Hillicon Valley: Amazon employees petition company to investigate discrimination allegations | ACLU calls for investigation into Alaska official over tweets | Electric cars to outsell combustion vehicles by 2036 Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE.

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DHS, however, said it hopes Wyden will schedule the confirmation hearing soon.

“Secretary Mayorkas has directly communicated with Senator Wyden and looks forward to working with him to schedule a confirmation hearing for Chris Magnus, who is nominated to serve as the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as soon as possible,” the agency said in a statement.

“Secretary Mayorkas has also directed a Department-wide review to ensure that all DHS law enforcement personnel receive appropriate training and operate pursuant to policies in keeping with best practices and law. DHS is committed to respecting the rights of all individuals who peacefully exercise their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly,” it said.

Magnus is a somewhat unorthodox pick to lead a federal agency. White and gay, he has spent the majority of his career leading local police departments in several cities, previously serving in similar roles in Richmond, Calif., and Fargo, N.D., before landing in Tucson.

The longtime police chief made headlines during his time in California when he held a "Black lives matter" sign while on the job at a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

The photographs of him holding the sign while chatting with protesters landed him in trouble with the Richmond Police Officers Association, which said the move violated state laws against politicking while in uniform.

“It certainly wasn’t intended to be a political statement,” Magnus told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “It was intended to be a humane statement.”

During his time in Tucson, Magnus was also critical of Trump’s immigration policies.

“The administration’s crackdown on immigrants is already having a chilling effect on police-community relations here. Many community members have told me that Latinos are not turning to us for help or working with us as often as they have in the past. Their growing sense of fear and distrust is clearly a consequence of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE,” Magnus wrote in a 2017 op-ed in The New York Times