The Global Initiative Network

GIN Member

Alan Bersin

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School; Global Fellow, Wilson Center

Since leaving public service in January 2017, Alan Bersin has served at the global law firm of Covington & Burling as a Senior Advisor to the Firm; as an Inaugural Senior Fellow in the Homeland Security Project at the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; as a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington D.C.; as Inaugural North America Fellow at the Canada Institute and the Mexico Institute (Wilson Center); and as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Quebec Government Office in Washington.  He is Chairman of BorderWorks Group, a consulting firm specializing in matters of Border Security and Management, including infrastructure projects on U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico; and Executive Chairman of Altana Trade, an enterprise devoted to providing machine learning and artificial intelligence-based insights on border management and global trade.

Between 2012 and 2017, Bersin served (at various times) as Assistant Secretary for Policy & International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In those capacities, Bersin led DHS’s transnational engagement, served as the principal advisor to the Secretary on international affairs, and oversaw the Department’s strategic planning and policy formulation functions.  Between 2012 and 2015, Bersin served as Vice President of INTERPOL for the Americas Region and as a member of the INTERPOL Executive Committee.  He currently serves as a Member of the Board of Trustees of the INTERPOL Foundation based in Geneva.

From 2010 to 2011, Bersin served as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a position from which he oversaw the operations of CBP’s 58,000-employee work force and managed an operating budget of more than $12 billion. Bersin guided CBP’s efforts to secure the nation’s borders and mitigate threats while expediting lawful trade and travel. In 2009, Bersin served as Assistant Secretary and Special Representative for Border Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security. In this capacity, he served as lead representative for DHS on border affairs and strategy regarding security, immigration, narcotics, and trade matters as well as for coordinating the Department’s security initiatives along the nation’s borders.

Prior to his DHS experience, President Bill Clinton appointed, and the U.S. Senate confirmed, Bersin to serve in the Department of Justice as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. Bersin served as the U.S. Attorney for nearly five years, during which time he was the Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative (the so-called Border Czar) responsible for coordinating federal law enforcement on the border from South Texas to Southern California.

Bersin has also held numerous distinguished state and local government positions, including serving as California’s Secretary of Education, Superintendent of Public Education in San Diego, and Chairman of the San Diego Airport Authority. Before entering public service, Bersin was a senior partner in the law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He received his A.B. in Government from Harvard College (magna cum laude) from where he was selected as a member of the All East, All New England and All Ivy Football Teams.  In 1995, he was named to the Harvard University Athletic Hall of Fame. From 1969 to 1971, Mr. Bersin attended Balliol College at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1974, he received his J.D. from the Yale Law School.  He is currently a member of the Bars of California, Alaska and the District of Columbia.

  • Alan D. Bersin, “Lines and Flows: The Beginning and End of Borders,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law 37, no. 2 (2012): 389.
  • Alan D. Bersin, “Lines and Flows: The Beginning and End of Borders,” World Customs Journal, Vol 6, no. 1, pp 115-26; and Lines and Flows: The Beginning and End of Borders: Addendum I,” World Customs Journal vol. 8, no. 2, pp 97-99, (articles in English, Spanish, Russian and Chinese), World Customs Journal Special Compilation, International Network of Customs Universities Inc., February 2019
  • Givens, Austen D.; Busch, Nathan E., and Bersin, Alan D. “Going Global: The International Dimensions of U.S. Homeland Security Policy,” Journal of Strategic Security 11, no. 3 (2018): 1-34.
  • Alan Bersin and Chappell Lawson, “Homeland Security and Transnational Crime,” Beyond 9/11: Building A Homeland Security Enterprise For The 21st Century, MIT Press (Publication in 2020).
  • Chappell Lawson and Alan Bersin, “Introduction: Homeland Security Comes of Age”, Beyond 9/11: Building A Homeland Security Enterprise For The 21st Century, MIT Press (Publication in 2020).
  • Alan Bersin, “Cross Border Economies: A Blueprint for North American Competitiveness”  Regional Insights, William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, 2013 Edition, No. 3 (October)
  • Alan Bersin and Lars Karlsson, , “Lines, Flows and Transnational Crime: Toward a Revised Approach to Countering the Underworld of Globalization,” (Manuscript, not for citation or distribution)
  • Sebastian Rotella, “Former ‘Border Czar’ Gives Real Facts about Immigration,” ProPublica, February 13, 2017.

--:-- | --:--