Background

The Senate voted Dec. 7 to confirm Tucson, Ariz., police chief Chris Magnus as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Magnus previously served as police chief in the cities of Fargo, N.D., and Richmond, Calif., after rising through the ranks of the Lansing, Mich., police department.

Magnus will take the reins at CBP at a time when it is working to advance its 21st Century Customs Framework, an initiative the agency says “will address modern trade challenges, leverage emerging opportunities, and achieve transformational long-term change” through measures such as the following.

- improving the timeliness and quality of data received in both the entry and de minimis environments to receive source information, as it materializes, from a broader set of new and emerging knowledgeable parties

- expanding the ability to share more information with the trade and clarify how information is used for targeting, admissibility, and other purposes

- increasing visibility into modern supply chains to better position CBP to identify and hold culpable parties accountable for violative behavior

- providing more enforcement flexibility and streamlining processes to better deter bad actors and protect U.S. consumers and businesses from unfair competition

- exploring alternative sources of funding above and beyond annual appropriations to help build out and sustain the infrastructure needed to meet the demands of trade

Magnus is also expected to work with lawmakers on legislation that could lay the statutory foundation for some 21CCF elements, although the trade community is already starting to raise concerns that a recently circulated draft bill focuses disproportionately on enforcement.

However, immigration is expected to be perhaps the top priority for Magnus, whose experience in law enforcement near the U.S.-Mexico border is clearly valued by the White House at a time when the number of migrants crossing in that region is trending up. Under his direction CBP could collaborate with other federal agencies on ways to increase employment and stabilize economic conditions in Central America, an effort that is already underway.

As a result, Magnus could rely heavily on Executive Assistant Commissioner AnnMarie Highsmith, who heads CBP’s Office of Trade, on trade issues. Highsmith is a career attorney who was elevated to her current role in 2021 after serving for eight years as CBP’s deputy chief counsel, where an agency press release said she “enhanced CBP’s enforcement of trade laws designed to protect U.S. consumers and businesses” and “aligned customs procedures with modern business practices to enhance the economic competitiveness of the United States.”

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