On Sunday, President Donald Trump nominated former U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) chief Mark Morgan to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Morgan served in the final months of President Obama’s second term, resigning in January 2017. Since then, Morgan advocated for Trump’s immigration priorities in media appearances. ICE has not had a Senate-confirmed ICE director under Trump. Both Tom Homan and Ronald Vitiello served in an acting capacity, and the Senate scheduled neither for confirmation votes.
Before his tenure as USBP chief, Morgan was a career FBI agent, a Los Angeles police officer and marine corpsman. As an FBI agent he supervised an MS-13 task force in southern California. His nomination in 2016 came after troubled years for USBP and widespread accusations of corruption. He was the first outsider in the agency’s history to serve as chief. Morgan clashed with Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union. At the time, members of the union penned a Breitbart op-ed in which they attacked Morgan as a “disgrace to the Border Patrol.”
Although he was only chief for a brief period, he appears to have a firm grasp of what’s at stake with our immigration system. As chief, he noted that agents began apprehending far more family units and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) than single adults – reversing decades-long trends. In April, he testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security as a witness to the southern border crisis. He said then that “the loopholes in our asylum laws; nonsensical judicial precedent; overwhelmed immigration processes; and lack of detention space, have helped drive what has devolved essentially into an open border policy.”
Morgan understands the flaws in our asylum system and sees that our entire immigration system is at a breaking point. Morgan told the Los Angeles Times that “DHS is going to have to address this issue all alone… Even if we lose in the courts, we still gotta do something to stop the incentive to migrate.” Morgan has the support of Kevin McAleenan, the acting head of DHS, who released a statement saying, “His record of service is needed to address the crisis at the border and support the men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The depth of his experience will be an asset to the Department and I look forward to working with him.”
Morgan’s nomination puts Democratic senators in an interesting bind. On one hand, he is a Trump nominee for a leadership role in the field of immigration. That alone will lead to a brutal confirmation battle, especially as senators look toward the 2020 election. Conversely, he is a respected official in professional circles. He carries no real baggage from his tenure as USBP chief. He was outside of the administration and played no part in policies attacked by Democrats such as zero tolerance. Even lifelong Democratic immigration bureaucrats such as Alan Bersin support his nomination.
The President’s choice to nominate Morgan is an interesting one. His tenure as Obama’s USBP chief was short. His record as its leader unclear because of its duration. But he appears to be a strong supporter of Trump’s immigration priorities. As chief he sent a USBP-wide email criticizing the Obama administration’s immigration policies. In the same email he asserted his opposition to amnesty and argued for closing asylum loopholes. He supports building the wall and has praised other Trump initiatives. Should the Senate confirm him, he will be a spirited defender of the president’s immigration agenda and a capable ICE director.