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Customs and Border Protection chief resigns after first refusing request to step down

Chris Magnus has served in the role since December 2021 after being narrowly confirmed by the Senate in a 50-47 mostly party-line vote.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has accepted the resignation of the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency in charge of border security, according to the White House.

Chris Magnus had initially refused to step down from his job after a request by the Biden administration, an official from the Department of Homeland Security told NBC News.

On Saturday night, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that Biden had accepted Magnus' resignation and thanked him for his service to the agency. The statement included a copy of Magnus' resignation letter, dated Saturday.

Chris Magnus at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, on Oct. 19, 2021.
Chris Magnus at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, on Oct. 19, 2021. Rod Lamkey / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

"Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Senate confirmed Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the past year. It has been a privilege and honor to be part of your administration," the letter said. "I am submitting my resignation effective immediately but wish you and your administration the very best going forward."

In a letter sent to the CBP workforce Saturday night, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed Magnus’ resignation and that deputy commissioner Troy Miller will serve as the acting commissioner effective immediately.

“We are thankful to Commissioner Magnus for his contributions over the past year and wish him well,” Mayorkas wrote.

As the head of CBP, Magnus, 62, oversaw more than 60,000 employees whose missions focus on counterterrorism, border security and trade enforcement.

The Los Angeles Times was first to report the news that Magnus was asked to resign.

Magnus has served in the role since December 2021 after being narrowly confirmed by the Senate in a 50-47 mostly party-line vote. He had served as chief of police in Tucson, Arizona, as well as in Richmond, Calif., and in Fargo, North Dakota. Early on in his law enforcement career, he also spent 15 years as a police officer in Lansing, Michigan.

The clash between the Biden administration and Magnus comes after a Politico report published in October said five current administration officials "portrayed him as unengaged in his job, saying he often doesn’t attend White House meetings on the situation on the border, badmouths other agencies to colleagues and superiors, and has not built relationships within CBP and across other agencies to address the influx of migrants at the border." NBC News has not confirmed the report.

Biden and congressional Democrats have been inundated with criticism from Republicans, who sought to make the influx of migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border a major issue during the midterms.

Magnus blamed Republican governors in September for drawing more migrants to the U.S. by promising them free bus rides north to places like New York, Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He said in an interview that in some cases, the governors of Texas, Arizona and Florida were “lying” to migrants about what opportunities might await them in those cities and that it is “luring” others to come to the U.S. 

In mid-September, NBC News reported there was friction between the Biden White House and senior DHS officials over how to handle immigration, as the number of undocumented migrants crossing the southern border kept rising and Republican governors sent migrants to more Democratic-run cities.

CORRECTION: (Nov. 15, 3:09 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Magnus left as Tucson police chief. It was in 2021 when he became head of Customs and Border Protection, not in 2020 after the death of a civilian in police custody. (Although Magnus offered to resign at the time, city leaders in Tucson did not accept his resignation.)