The head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is stepping down, the Department of Homeland Security announced today.

Commissioner Alan Bersin, who came into the post after a recess appointment by President Obama in March 2010, will resign Dec. 30.

“I want to thank Alan Bersin for his distinguished leadership over the past two years as the CBP Commissioner,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “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.”

Obama made the recess appointment, a function that allows nominees to be appointed without congressional approval, during what he called “an unprecedented level of obstruction” by Congress. Bersin's term was set to end Dec. 31.

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Bersin, who along with other Obama appointees has been criticized in Republican circles for failing to secure the border, was in El Paso this summer touting what he said was CBP’s unprecedented success in accomplishing just that.

“It is incumbent to those of us who live and work on the border to dispel this myth that the border is out of control, that the border is unsafe,” he said then, citing the dramatic decrease in illegal crossings on the southwest border as proof.

Napolitano said Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar, a former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, will serve as acting commissioner, and Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Field Operations Thomas Winkowski will serve as acting deputy commissioner.

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