WASHINGTON -- Time's up for the head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who announced Thursday he is stepping down at the end of the year when his recess appointment expires.
Alan Bersin served as the administration's Southwest "border czar" on undocumented immigration and drug smuggling. President Obama nominated him to be CBP commissioner in September 2009, and appointed him commissioner in March 2010 after the Senate failed to confirm him.
"My service as Commissioner has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my public life," Bersin said in a statement. "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."
Bersin was one of 15 officials to be given temporary recess appointments in 2010 after their nominations stalled in the Senate. In November, Don Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a lightening rod in the battle of health care reform, resigned from his temporary job before it expired at the end of the year.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano thanked Bersin for this service. "During his tenure, CBP has taken historic steps to secure our borders while facilitating legal travel and trade," she said in a statement, adding that he 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."
But Bersin's resignation came the same day that the Government Accountability Office released a report criticizing the agency for the way it trains and keeps track of newly hired officers, given recent incidents involving potential terrorists attempting to enter the country. It said covert tests conducted over two years found "significant weaknesses" in inspection routines at several ports of entry, and that more than 4,000 customs officers have not completed required training on "immigration fundamentals, immigration law, and agricultural fundamentals courses." The watchdog agency recommended better training and recordkeeping for new officers.
Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar will serve as acting commissioner until Obama nominates a new commissioner.