is nominating a former Obama administration lawyer and a progressive police chief to lead agencies in charge of the country’s legal immigration bureaucracy and border policy as part of a new installment of Department of Homeland Security appointments, White House officials confirmed to CBS News on Monday.
Nearly three months into his administration, the president has appointed six allies to help steer a department grappling with two disparate problems: rising levels of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border and the aftermath of two sweeping cyberattacks — the Russian cyberespionage campaign “SolarWinds” and a Chinese hack of Microsoft Exchange servers.
The president has chosen Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson, Arizona, and outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection and former chief counsel for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ur Jaddou, to lead the agency.
Former National Security Council senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan John Tien, will serve as deputy secretary for DHS, and Jonathan Meyer, another former Obama administration official is slated to return to the department as its general counsel.
“I am excited that President Biden has nominated an extraordinary group of individuals for critical leadership positions in the Department of Homeland Security,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “They are highly-regarded and accomplished professionals with deep experience in their respective fields.”
Jaddou, a member of Mr. Biden’s transition team who most recently worked at the liberal immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, served as the top lawyer at USCIS during President Obama’s second term. Before that, she worked at the State Department’s legislative affairs bureau and in Congress as chief counsel in the House Immigration Subcommittee.
If confirmed as USCIS director, Jaddou would be charged with overseeing the nation’s legal immigration system and the adjudication of hundreds of thousands of applications for U.S. citizenship, green cards, asylum, work permits and other immigration-related benefits.
Jaddou will likely play a key role in the Biden administration’s efforts to overturn numerous Trump-era regulations, memos and guidance that restricted different avenues of legal immigration, including limits on asylum and green cards. She’ll also be responsible for operating the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, a deportation relief program for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors that is facing a legal challenge in federal court.
Before becoming Tucson’s police chief, Magnus led police departments in Fargo, North Dakota, and Richmond, California. While he appears to lack experience in implementing immigration or border policy, Magnus has been vocal about his views on these issues, accusing the Trump administration of fueling distrust and fear among immigrant communities through its “anti-immigrant” rhetoric.
In 2017, Magnus criticized the Trump administration for threatening to withhold federal funds from local jurisdictions that limited their cooperation with federal deportation agents. He argued in a New York Times opinion piece that hardline immigration policies and rhetoric make communities less safe because fearful immigrants stop reporting crimes.
“The Trump administration seems to think it knows more about fighting crime than local police chiefs and sheriffs, and it is punishing cities that keep their officers focused on community needs rather than federal immigration enforcement,” Magnus wrote.
While he would oversee an agency in charge of facilitating travel, maritime security and curbing drug smuggling, Magnus, if confirmed, will likely be chiefly preoccupied with the U.S.-Mexico border, where a sharp increase in apprehensions of migrants, including families and unaccompanied children, has created formidable humanitarian, logistical and political challenges for the Biden administration.
Border apprehensions in March topped 170,000, a two-decade high, while the number of unaccompanied children taken into custody eclipsed the previous all-time monthly record. For weeks, thousands of unaccompanied children have been stranded in overcrowded CBP tents and stations not designed to hold migrants, let alone minors, for more than 72 hours.
Monday’s nominations also include top cyber jobs, as the Biden administration zeroes in on the growing national security threat. Mr. Biden will nominate Chris Inglis, the former deputy director of the National Security Agency (NSA), to serve in the newly created cyber czar position as the national cyber director at the White House.
Jen Easterly, a former senior official at the National Security Agency and most recently, Morgan Stanley’s head of resilience has been chosen to head up the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Mr. Biden will also nominate Robert Silvers, a former Obama administration cybersecurity official, to be undersecretary for policy.
“If confirmed, Chris and Jen will add deep expertise, experience and leadership to our world-class cyber team, which includes the first-ever Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, as well as strong, crisis-tested professionals from the FBI to ODNI to the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan remarked in a statement.
News of the administration’s selections for cyber leadership was also welcomed by former CISA Director Chris Krebs, who described Easterly, Silvers and Inglis as “brilliant picks” on Twitter.
“My goodness. This is a team,” Krebs wrote on Twitter.
Former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who headed cybersecurity efforts during the Trump administration, also called the appointments “outstanding.”
Private sector cybersecurity experts also praised the new picks.
In a joint statement, the bipartisan, bicameral leaders of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission — an advisory panel convened in 2019 to better prepare the country for cyber conflict — also welcomed the appointments.
“We are pleased that President Biden has nominated our fellow Solarium Commissioner Chris Inglis to be the country’s first National Cyber Director,” the leaders, who include Senator Angus King of Maine, Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, said. “As our adversaries’ attempts to probe our networks become bolder, the need for a leader with statutory authority to coordinate the development and implementation of a national cyber strategy to defend and secure everything from our hospitals to our power grid could not be more clear.”
In its seminal report last year, the commission, in which both Inglis and Easterly participated, recommended the creation of a Senate-confirmed national cyber director and greater authorities for CISA.
The new stable of cyber officials will assume their roles alongside Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, who has been leading the administration’s response to the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange intrusions.
Neuberger said at an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations last week that the administration’s long-awaited executive order would be released “in the coming weeks.”
Notably absent from Monday’s list of appointments to DHS is a director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency charged with deporting undocumented immigrants and investigating sex and drug trafficking criminal organizations. For more than four years, the department has been led by a rotating cadre of temporary leaders not confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The Biden administration has also yet to name a nominee to serve as under secretary of its intelligence arm. Homeland Security’s Department of Intelligence and Analysis has been riddled by politicization and reportedly compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Oregon, last summer. The agency also failed to issue an intelligence report ahead of the.
Ahead of confirmation hearings, a congressional aide for Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters told CBS News that filling these roles at the Department of Homeland Security “continues to be a priority” moving forward. “Chairman Peters looks forward to moving quickly to review these nominees’ qualifications and advance them through the confirmation process so we can have qualified, Senate-confirmed leaders in place as soon as practicable.”