Alan D. Bersin (born October 15, 1946) served as the acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Acting Commissioner Bersin was placed by President Barack Obama on March 27, 2010 as a recess appointment. As Acting Commissioner, Mr. Bersin oversaw the operations of CBP’s 57,000-employee work force and managed an operating budget of more than $11 billion. Bersin formerly served as the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs, informally known as the "Border Czar." Bersin currently serves as Assistant Secretary of International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, a position he assumed on January 3, 2012. According to the Department of Homeland Security website, in this position Bersin "oversees the Department's international engagement and serves as the principal advisor to Secretary Janet Napolitano on all international affairs".
Bersin is a former Secretary of Education for California, as well as a former superintendent of San Diego City Schools, past federal Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) and United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and former Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative. He previously served as the chair of the executive committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
Bersin was born in 1946 to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. He attended public schools and Hebrew school in New York City. He received an A.B. in government from Harvard College, and then attended Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1974, he obtained a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
From 1995-1998, Bersin served as the Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative, coordinating law enforcement on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
His appointment in 1998 as Superintendent of Public Education in San Diego City Schools put him in control of the eighth largest urban school district in the U.S. In 2005, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him as California's Education Secretary.
In 2007, the nonprofit electronic journalism outlet voiceofsandiego.org reported that Bersin was considering a run for City Attorney of San Diego.
On April 15, 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the appointment of Bersin as DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs. In the press release announcing his appointment, Secretary Napolitano said, "Alan brings years of vital experience working with local, state and international partners to help us meet the challenges we face at our borders. He will lead the effort to make our borders safe while working to promote commerce and trade."
Bersin's recess appointment in 2010 was effective only until the end of the next session of Congress. Through the rest of 2010 and 2011, Republicans in the Senate refused to hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination, so in December 2011 he was forced to step down. Napolitano said, "I want to thank Alan Bersin for his distinguished leadership over the past two years as the CBP Commissioner. During his tenure, CBP has taken historic steps to secure our borders while facilitating legal travel and trade. 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."
According to the Electronic Engineering Times, Bersin is responsible for a bizarre redaction policy that is endangering national security, namely making it virtually impossible to identify counterfeit semiconductor parts entering the U.S., even ones destined for sensitive military equipment.
"At the 81st INTERPOL General Assembly held in Rome, Italy, DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin was elected to serve a three-year term as Vice President for the Americas on the INTERPOL Executive Committee. Mr. Bersin was elected with overwhelming support from the approximately 170 member countries in attendance. This year’s assembly also saw the largest U.S. delegation in history, reflecting the important role INTERPOL plays in international security, and in the security of the United States.
During his keynote address, Mr. Bersin underscored the need to work together on border security to combat transnational crime, and the importance of information-sharing between various law enforcement agencies and with INTERPOL. DHS currently utilizes INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document database every day to verify the travel documents of travelers seeking to enter the United States.
Mr. Bersin will continue to serve in his current role as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s principal advisor on international affairs, and through his new responsibilities, work on advancing DHS’ collaboration with the world’s largest international law enforcement organization and its member countries."