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Bersin, Alan (Border Czar)


Title: Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs
Reports to: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Agencies that handle similar issues: Customs and Border Protection; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Duties: Coordinate all of the department's border security and law-enforcement efforts

  • Born in October 1946 in Brooklyn, New York
  • Holds a B.A. degree from Harvard College, a J.D. degree from Yale University, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where he met Bill Clinton (with whom he later attended -- and graduated from -- Yale Law School in 1973)
  • Worked briefly as special counsel to the Los Angeles Police Commission
  • Worked with the L.A. law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson, where he specialized in securities litigation and RICO crimes; eventually became a partner there.
  • Moved in 1992 to San Diego, where he taught at the University of San Diego Law School
  • Worked on the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign
  • Was recommended in 1993 by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and nominated by President Clinton as U.S. attorney for San Diego, though he had no prosecutorial experience and almost no criminal-law experience
  • Served as U.S. Attorney for San Diego from 1993 to 1998
  • 1995-1998: Served as the Attorney General Janet Reno’s Southwest Border Representative, coordinating law enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border. Though he slowed down the flow of illegals entering California, the number of Mexican illegals crossing the border into other states increased dramatically on his watch.
  • Stressing the importance of humane treatment of immigrants, Bersin focused on suspected smugglers of both drugs and people; said he was not interested in prosecuting “economic migrants.”
  • Though he had no previous experience in education, he was named superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District in 1998 and held that post until 2005.
  • Served as Secretary of Education for California from 2005 to 2006
  • Was Chairman of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, 2006 to 2009
  • At the El Paso Border Security Conference in August 2009, Bersin and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refused to watch a video that showed illegal immigrants crossing, unimpeded, into the U.S. along a 14-mile-long open stretch of unfenced border.
  • Has given more than $50,000 to political campaigns since 1999, almost all of it to Democrats.


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