MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Commissioner Chris Magnus, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was in South Florida this week to meet with staff and see firsthand the work being done as an unprecedented number of migrants arrives to South Florida. He met with officers and agents, and traveled to the Keys to speak with Border Patrol agents in Marathon.
Local 10 has followed CBP agents since the beginning of the fiscal year, and spoke to Commissioner Magnus about the dangerous voyages many from Cuba and Haiti are taking.
“Would you consider adding more resources to the Florida Keys?” asked Local 10′s Janine Stanwood. “Even working with DHS to ask Congress for more personnel or more time up in the air?”
“Three hundred and fifty percent increase with migrants just this fiscal year; you’re right, it’s significant. I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with the work that’s being done.” Magnus said. “As conditions continue to change, we are really looking at that very carefully in Washington so we can make good decisions about how personnel are allocated.”
CBP is a law enforcement agency tasked with protecting national security and does not set immigration or border policy. But Magnus responded to criticism, especially among Republicans, about reports the Biden administration is pushing to detain and arrest fewer migrants.
“I want to send a clear message that the border is not open,” Magnus said. “We are working hard to send that message, whether it’s through social media, whether it’s through being very aggressive in imposing consequences.”
Magnus also had a message for those making perilous journeys in less-than-seaworthy vessels.
“My message, first of all, is one of profound empathy. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to live in those circumstances. At the same time, the risks are so great. I can appreciate people trying to be reunited with the families. But that can’t happen if they die at sea,” Magnus said. “Look, it’s a broken immigration system, no question about that. A scenario where - I can’t tell you how much I wish we would see action by some of the policymakers.”
“What kind of action would you want to see?” Stanwood asked.
“Reforms to this entire system, that give more people legal pathways into this country,” Magnus replied.
Combatting human smuggling is also a priority for the agency. Magnus said several federal agencies are meeting and sharing intelligence to target smugglers.
“Our goal is to deal with these situations as best we can, enforcing the law, treating people humanely, working with our partners. Not easy work.” Magnus said.