Trump Taps Mark Morgan, Former Obama Border Patrol Chief, to Head ICE

May 6, 2019by Molly O’Toole
Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan tours Border Patrol Tactical Unit training facilities on Oct. 6, 2016 near El Paso, Texas. President Trump is preportedly considering Morgan as a candidate to take over as head of ICE. (Brian Bennett/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — It’s not the kind of first meeting you want to have with your new boss: Just after Mark Morgan, then head of the Border Patrol, met Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly for the first time in January 2017, he was told that newly inaugurated President Trump was firing him.

Morgan had served as chief of Border Patrol for the last six months under Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, and Trump, who’d won the White House in part because of his pledges to crack down on immigration, had made clear he wanted to go in a different direction.

On Sunday, Trump announced he was bringing Morgan back, saying in a Twitter message that he was tapping Morgan to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the embattled Homeland Security agency charged primarily with enforcement and deportations.

Morgan must still be formally nominated to the post, and confirmed by the Senate.

“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 hard working men and women of ICE,” Trump tweeted. “Mark is a true believer and American Patriot. He will do a great job!”

As Trump has grown increasingly frustrated that his aggressive policies have failed to curb a surge in people crossing the southern border, primarily Central American families and asylum seekers, Morgan has voiced support for the president. In public appearances, congressional testimony, and interviews, Morgan has made clear he was auditioning for a new administration job.

Morgan did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

“Here’s phase one of what ‘tougher’ looks like, in my opinion,” Morgan told The Times in an interview last month. “They have to stop expecting that Congress is going to do their job. DHS is going to have to address this issue all alone.”

Under current laws on asylum, “the incentive is: grab kid, step one foot onto U.S. soil, and you’re allowed in, never to be heard from again,” he continued. “In the immediate, we have to do something — even if we lose in the courts, we still gotta do something to stop the incentive.”

If confirmed, Morgan would be among the first to fill a key post vacated in Trump’s recent purge of top Homeland Security officials — starting with his previous nominee to lead ICE — as he vowed to go in a “tougher” direction to stop the surge at the border.

In contrast to a White House with relatively shallow experience in government, Morgan left at the end of January 2017 with more than three decades of service, in the Marines, like Kelly, as well as the FBI and several Homeland Security posts, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“Mark Morgan’s career spans more than 31 years of faithful service to the nation, including service in the U.S. Marine Corps, as a local deputy sheriff and police officer, 20 years in the FBI, as Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Internal Affairs, and, finally, as Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol,” Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol’s parent agency, wrote upon Morgan’s departure. “I wish him every success in the future.”

That future is now again working under McAleenan, another former Obama official whom Trump named acting Homeland Security secretary after ousting Kirstjen Nielsen.

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©2019 Los Angeles Times

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