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Donald Trump’s new pick to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was technically in the administration for Day One of his presidency — and then was promptly shoved out.
But now that the nominee, Mark Morgan, has become a regular voice on Fox News — and a supporter of the administration's harshest immigration policies — the president has warmed up to the same guy who worked under Obama and was once despised by the Border Patrol union.
Morgan led Border Patrol for three months of the Obama administration but announced his departure the day after Trump announced his immediate and controversial plans to start building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to his stint with Border Patrol, Morgan was a career FBI agent.
“I am pleased to inform all of those that believe in a strong, fair and sound Immigration Policy that Mark Morgan will be joining the Trump Administration as the head of our hardworking men and women of ICE. Mark is a true believer and American Patriot. He will do a great job!” Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
When Barack Obama tapped Morgan to head Border Patrol in June 2016, the agency outsider almost immediately drew ire from the agency’s union, which had endorsed Trump’s run for the presidency. In an op-ed published on Breitbart, the alt-right news site, the National Border Patrol Council called Morgan a “disgrace.”
Morgan once said he supported comprehensive immigration reform, which some union members took to mean a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country without authorization. But Morgan backtracked and said he didn’t support “blanket amnesty.” He also supports the border wall.
Some people stepped up to defend Morgan’s record after he was pushed out of the Trump administration. “He’s not a political guy,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, told the Washington Post. "I’ve never heard a bad thing about him," he added.
But after Morgan left Border Patrol, he evidently became a political guy. He’s gone on Fox News several times to praise Trump and parrot his rallying cries, like claiming the U.S. essentially has an open border. Just last week, Morgan told Fox News that asylum-seeking migrants are “not even asserting credible fear claims, they’re not even asserting asylum now. They don’t need to, because our laws are so broke.” In claiming asylum, migrants have to establish “credible fear” of returning to their home country, where they may face persecution or violence.
Morgan also recently told Fox News that the fenced-in areas of processing that hold undocumented immigrants — which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has repeatedly insisted aren’t cages — are just part of the “really nice” facilities. (In an unrelated event last week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said DHS is going to get rid of them at the country’s largest processing facility.)
"They're not cages. They're actually really nice facilities, and there are chain-link fences within the facilities, but it's designed so the Border Patrol agents working there can provide safety and security for the people that are there," Morgan said on Fox News on March 7.
If confirmed by the Senate, Morgan will take the helm of one of the most controversial agencies within a gutted Department of Homeland Security. Trump already pulled Ron Vitello’s nomination to head ICE because he wanted to go in a “tougher direction.” Former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned last month. And Nielsen’s would-be successor, Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady, also left the department soon after.
Morgan will also be tasked with an unprecedented surge in migrant families crossing the southern border, primarily driven by Central American migrants seeking their legal right to claim asylum in the U.S. In March, U.S. officers arrested or denied entry to more than 100,000 people along the southern border, more than twice as many as the same period last year.
Cover image: In a Thursday, April 4, 2019 file photo, former U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)