In an exclusive interview, former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan shares with The Daily Signal’s Rob Bluey why it’s urgent we take action on the border crisis, and the importance of building a wall. Read the interview, posted below, or listen to it on the podcast:
Or watch the interview:
We also cover these stories:
- Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., shares what he saw on a recent trip to the border.
- President Trump is requesting Congress send $4.5 billion in emergency funding to cope with the border crisis.
- Attorney General William Barr is grilled at a contentious hearing about how he handled the release of the Mueller report.
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Rob Bluey: We’re joined at The Daily Signal by Mark Morgan, former Border Patrol chief under President Barack Obama. Mark, thanks for being back with us at The Daily Signal.
Mark Morgan: You bet.
Bluey: There’s been so much talk recently about the crisis that we face at our border. As somebody who’s seen it firsthand from inside the government, tell us what concerns you most.
Morgan: Well, a couple of things. First of all, it’s absolutely a national emergency and here’s a couple things. One thing gets lost in the narrative because recently, finally, everybody’s had acquisitions that there is a crisis at the border, but they really only talk about one element of the crisis and that’s the humanitarian side and what’s lost is it’s a dual crisis. It’s both a humanitarian and national security threat at the crisis. Make no doubt: it’s both.
Bluey: As somebody who has served under President Obama, somebody who’s seen the Border Patrol firsthand, what is it like to be a Border Patrol agent today?
Morgan: I’ll tell you, it’s worse in many aspects. It was a challenge when I was a chief in 2016. The morale was really low. We catch and release, as we’ve all heard, right?
… Back then when I was chief, we had … I estimated about 15% of Boarder Patrol agents were pulled off the line to do humanitarian mission, what I call kind of child day care services, right? Fifteen percent leaving the border wide open. The Border Patrol agents knew that. They knew they weren’t doing the job that they were designed to do.
The Border Patrol agents knew that the border was less safe because of that, the border agents knew. They know what needs to be done. They know the resources they need and Congress wasn’t doing what they needed to do and that was back in 2016.
Now, fast-forward to 2019, the numbers have skyrocketed and now that 15% of Border Patrol agents being pulled off the line and some sectors, that’s 40%, 40%. So the Border Patrol every day … go to work, they know that the border is absolutely less secure than the day before. Their morale is low, they’re frustrated, they want Congress to act.
Bluey: I want to talk about solutions in just a moment, but you’ve raised an important point there. You’ve talked about the increase and how the problem has become worse. Why?
Morgan: This is something I know you’ve talked about with Tom Homan, former ICE director, and he’s spot on when he says—and this is … part of why I’m out here, to educate the American people about this, and I’ve been trying to say this—unequivocally, the crisis we face right now is the worst in the history of our country, what we’re facing right now and here’s why.
Back in the ’90s and early 2000, we had like 1.5 million, but we had two elements to that. One I called over recidivism, meaning the same person was going back and forth. So that number actually was way under a million and then the majority of them were Mexican males, of which we deported 90%.
What we’re facing right now, this year, we’re looking at a million, but because 65% to 70% are unaccompanied minors and family units and because of our broken laws, they get to come in.
So what the American people need to know what that [this is] going to result this year [in] 650 to 700,000 people were going to [enter the interior of] … the United States never to be heard from again. That’s a difference. That’s why it’s the worst we’ve ever seen.
Bluey: Let’s talk about some solutions. The White House is reportedly working on a plan under the direction of Jared Kushner. He’s going to be presenting it to President Trump. What would be in an ideal plan that the White House puts together?
Morgan: Two things. One, the ideal plan is we have to stop wanting to eat the elephant in one bite, right? That’s where I see there is paralysis in Congress, is they want to eat that elephant—
Bluey: The comprehensive approach.
Morgan: Right. Exactly. From a law enforcement perspective, I want Congress to do two things right now, and I believe they can do that in 15 minutes. … With a legislative fix, they could address the Flores Settlement Agreement and TVPRA [Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act].
Put everything else aside, Congress does those two things in 15 minutes, catch release ends and 85% of the humanitarian crisis ends the next day. That’s what Congress needs to do and they need to do it tomorrow.
Then they can start going down the road of a more comprehensive [plan] and talk about amnesty and talk about those other things that they want to do, but they need to do that. Another point, address the Flores Settlement Agreement, address TVPRA, 85% [of the] humanitarian crisis goes away the next day.
Bluey: One of the things that we’ve seen in the past, you go back to the 1980s and Ed Meese, the former attorney general, says this, it was all packaged together. Amnesty along with some of the mortar security measures and what happened was you had amnesty and then the border security measures never took place.
If they do that, do you believe that there is an opportunity to perhaps go back and continue building the wall, taking some of the other steps that right now seem like pretty contentious ideas in Washington, D.C., but, as you’ve talked about, are quite effective solutions?
Morgan: Absolutely, and this is one thing that concerns me right now. The narrative has really been taken over on just the humanitarian side and that discussion about the wall, you’ve seen that lessen a little bit and that concerns me.
But one of my catchphrases I’ve been saying is, “We need to do it all, including the wall.” So the American people need to understand the wall is still an integral part of securing the border.
Again, the wall is part of that multilayer strategy of infrastructure, technology, and personnel and strategic locations that … the Border Patrol needs. They know why they need it and that’s what they’ve been asking for. That’s absolutely needed as part of this package. So I am concerned that if they do some package and that stuff is not in there to the extent that it needs to be, our borders will continue to be unsecure.
Bluey: Let’s talk about that wall for a moment. You have said that walls do work. How have you seen in your own experience walls working effectively?
Morgan: That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked that and I want to start by saying anybody who says that walls are ineffective, they are misleading the American people. Unequivocally, I’m telling you right now, that is a false narrative.
If you go back to historical data—San Diego, Yuma, you could keep going on El Paso—anywhere where a wall has been built as a part of a multilayer strategy, that’s a key.
That’s part of the false narrative, too. They want to say just the wall. They’ve never said just a wall, no expert has ever said that. It’s part of that multilayer infrastructure, technology, and personnel where those things are all coalesced together effectively and absolutely works.
Again, San Diego for example, just a few short miles, you saw the numbers of illegal immigration go down by 90%. You saw that in Yuma just again, a few miles of border and you saw again the estimates were between 90% and 95% of illegal immigration went down. Crime in that county went down drastically.
We could go on and on and on. Historical data facts, they’re effective. … Just recently, you saw the chief Patrol Agent in Calexico, when the president went down there. What did she say? And I know her. … She talked about the assaults. … When they just built a new part of the wall, assault on agents went down 65% because of the wall, it works.
Bluey: It lets the Border Patrol focus on other aspects of securing the border, right? If you have the wall there, it allows them to do that.
Mark, you have a situation though where 10 years ago Democrats in Congress would be supportive of a wall. Even people like Chuck Schumer and under Chuck Schumer.
What has changed so much then in the past decade? Is it really a political thing with President Trump or are they relying on some other information that is leading them to form these opinions and, as you said, misleading statements?
Morgan: That’s another pillar that I think needs to be discussed more. Look, I’m not a political guy. I’m a law enforcement guy and I can come to no other conclusion because back in 2006, the Secure Fence Act, a bipartisan bill, right?
Bluey: That’s right.
Morgan: Both sides of the House, that led 654 miles of wall being built. Chuck Schumer gave a speech at Georgetown University where he talked about how effective the wall is back in 2009, I believe. Then we fast-forward to now they’re immoral, they’re ineffective.
So the only thing you’ve got, that plus all the data that shows that they are from a law enforcement perspective, I can only draw one conclusion as being driven by a personal political ideology and the American people should be outraged because of a personal political ideology. Make no mistake, our country is less safe each and every day.
Bluey: Mark, what is that one of the most heart-wrenching stories that you’ve experienced either in your time serving in government and law enforcement or since leaving? We know that stories are sometimes some of the most effective ways that we can reach people with this situation there on the border, on the ground. … Does one stand out in your mind?
Morgan: Actually, I would say one from both sides, both from the immigrant perspective and then from the American citizen side.
So for the American citizen, it’s not one perspective but it’s a collective group. American citizens who have died at the high ends of an illegal alien. Not just at the hands of the illegal alien, but one who was here, has committed additional crimes, who was detained by ICE, who should not have been here.
And they were allowed to be here because of our broken laws and because of our politicians selectively choosing to enforce our laws based on their political ideology and their own personal morality and we do not enforce our laws, and because of that, American citizens have died.
I don’t understand why this country is not outraged at that. Those lives could have been prevented, that’s No. 1.
No. 2, I remember as chief, the first sector that I visited, I’m right on the border. It’s night, it’s about midnight and I approach. The agents didn’t know I was there and I watched them interact with a group of unaccompanied minors.
They had approached, and I will never forget this image, there was a Border Patrol agent. He was knelt down and he was talking to this girl. She was about 6 or 7 years old, lost, scared, and she sat there and he is talking to her and dealing with her with this unbelievable compassion as if the girl was his own. I will always remember that.
How are we allowing that to happen? We are because of our broken laws and our system. We are providing that incentive for a mother and father in another country to hand their 6-year-old daughter over to the cartels to take this dangerous trek. And why is that being done? Because they know they set one foot in soil on their end because of our broken laws. That’s not right.
Bluey: Yeah. It’s heartbreaking. Finally, I want to thank you for speaking out as forcefully as you have and joining us again at The Daily Signal. What is it that motivates you to do that? You could retreat, you could not necessarily put yourself out there in the position that you have. Why are you speaking out so forcefully on this issue?
Morgan: Well, I appreciate [it]. … It has always been great and some of the feedback isn’t always great, but it’s really easy because I truly believe after 30 years—I joined the Marine Corps, I was 19, and I’ve been in public service in this country ever since. It’s part of who I am, it’s in my DNA, and what I truly see at the southwest border is we are a crossroads in this country.
It is a national emergency. I see the safety and security of this country being negatively impacted because we’re not solving this problem. So I want to be part of the process of educating and informing to try to solve this problem.
Bluey: Well, we support that, finding solutions. Mark Morgan, thanks so much for being with The Daily Signal.
Morgan: You bet. Thanks for having me.