U.S. border chief to step down Dec. 30

The Obama Administration’s commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection – a former California Secretary of Education – is stepping down.

Alan BersinAlan Bersin, 65, has been the Homeland Security Department’s point man on illegal immigration and drug smuggling over the southwest border. He announced today he’s resigning effective Dec. 30, the day before his recess appointment expires.

He already was Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs – the “border czar” – when Obama nominated him for CBP commissioner in September 2009, and then later appointed him in March 2010 after the Senate failed to hold a confirmation vote.

Bersin from 1995 to 1998 was a federal prosecutor serving as the U.S. Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative, coordinating law enforcement on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. From there he detoured into education, appointed in 1998 as San Diego’s superintendent of public education. He was still in that post when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped him to serve as the state’s Education Secretary in 2005-06.

In his statement today, Bersin called his time as CBP’s chief “one of the most rewarding experiences of my public life.”

“I am immensely proud of the significant and meaningful achievements we have made on our borders and at our nation’s ports of entry over nearly two years,” he said. “These extraordinary accomplishments are the result of the unstinting dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of the men and women of CBP. It has been my honor to serve with them and I depart with full confidence that they will continue to secure our borders and foster the lawful exchange of people and goods with vigilance, service and integrity.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano thanked Bersin for his service.

“During his tenure, CBP has taken historic steps to secure our borders while facilitating legal travel and trade,” she said in a news release. “Commissioner Bersin has also been instrumental in facilitating new international agreements and public-private partnerships as well as developing new paradigms throughout the world in combating terrorism and international crime. Commissioner Bersin has helped set CBP on a path to continuously adapt and seek new and innovative ways of keeping our country – and our communities – safe.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.