Obama’s Border Patrol Chief: Border Crisis ‘Worst in Our History’

Obama’s Border Patrol Chief: Border Crisis ‘Worst in Our History’
Mark Morgan, former Border Patrol chief, in Washington on April 24, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Charlotte Cuthbertson

WASHINGTON—Former U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan sat down with The Epoch Times on April 24 to discuss border security. Morgan, who led the agency during the final months of the Obama administration, is also a 20-year veteran of the FBI.

The Epoch Times: We’ve got record numbers already, seven months into the fiscal year—we’ve already surpassed last year’s numbers, and there’s a new caravan on the way. I’ve heard 10,000 to 20,000 people. What are the likely scenarios here?
Mark Morgan: Well, so it really depends. I think it illustrates a couple of things: one it’s just another example, another fact, that this is a crisis. We’re talking about a caravan now, 10,000 to 20,000.

I think the other thing that’s important that it illustrates is the failure of the government of Mexico to be a proactive partner in resolving this problem. Their southern border is completely unsecure, and the border between Mexico and the United States, the cartels own it. So it really does show the government of Mexico’s inept ability to handle this issue.

But now, with President Trump making the threats that he’s making, to close down the border, we see the government of Mexico finally starting to step up [and] we’re seeing reports that the caravan is being broken up.

But, mark my words, they’re still going to get here. Congress has still failed to do its job to protect the American people, so the same laws apply. So there’s a good chance that the majority of these individuals are still going to be allowed into the interior of the United States.

With one exception, if the president is able to continue with the new approach—the Migrant Protection Protocol—to make the individuals seeking asylum remain in Mexico, there is a chance that those numbers could be reduced. But, right now, that’s only being done at the ports of entry.

The Epoch Times: There’s no incentive for them to go to the ports of entry, because the smuggling networks don’t want them to. They want to use them to tie up Border Patrol, then bring drugs around them. So, although the Migrant Protection Protocol sounds good in practice, it’s not really having a big impact, is it?
Mr. Morgan: No. Right now, I think only about 2,000 have remained in Mexico. And so you’re absolutely right. For the protection protocols to really work, they’re going to have to apply that along the whole southwest border, at the ports and in between the ports. Because like you said, that'll actually just incentivize even more for them to come illegally and for the cartels to continue to exploit, not only the migrants, but also our resources along the border.
The Epoch Times: Rio Grande Valley, Texas, Border Patrol chief Rudy Karisch said recently that, in 2014, of all the men that Border Patrol apprehended in his sector, fewer than 1 percent had brought a child with them. That number is now at 50 percent. What’s going on there?
Mr. Morgan: So they know now, you grab a kid, you’re in. They know, they understand that with the Flores Settlement Agreement and TVPRA [Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act]—I think those two things are what really creates catch-and-release, they know it and it’s working. Grab a kid and you’re in. And so now you’ve seen a complete change in the demographics because of that. And now you’re seeing adult males coming along. And it goes even further, the children are being exploited, right? So an adult male who wants to get across, will pay the cartels to basically rent the kid. It’s horrendous.
The Epoch Times: And so this number, from fewer than 1 percent to 50 percent, that can’t in any way be attributed to some kind of catastrophic events in their home country that happened between 2014 and now?
Mr. Morgan: No. That’s another false narrative. So if you'll look at the Northern Triangle countries [Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador]. Whether you look at their violence, whatever element you look at it, it ebbs and flows. But yet the numbers from the Northern Triangle countries have continued to skyrocket. Why?

It’s not what’s happening in the Northern Triangle countries. It’s what’s happening in the United States. It’s the Congress’s failure to address this problem again and again. And the Northern Triangle countries getting more educated ... they know once they get here, they’re in. The Border Patrol and ICE are so overwhelmed right now that a lot of these migrants coming, they’re not even asserting credible fear for asylum, and they’re still being allowed in because the agencies are overwhelmed.

The Epoch Times: I was in Yuma a couple of weeks ago, and the Border Patrol chief there said 90 percent of the people that are crossing illegally don’t even claim credible fear. I’ve also heard that there are websites and WhatsApp groups that are educating the migrants on what to say, what to do. Even coordinates on where to cross the border. What do you know about that?
Mr. Morgan: All of that is correct. I'll give you a step further. The cartels aren’t starting those caravans—they don’t need to, because there are nongovernmental agencies and other nonprofit organizations that are actually starting the caravans.

But make no mistake, the cartels own that border. And so as they start coming through, they’re going to tax them. And they‘ll take the caravans, no matter how big or small, and they’ll direct them to certain areas, so the Border Patrol can be engaged, and they'll sneak criminal aliens in and bad things in. And so it’s absolutely being done every day.

The Epoch Times: And just to go back to, you know, sneaking bad people in. In the first six months of fiscal year 2019, 25,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley have evaded Border Patrol. Give us a little insight. Who are they? Where are they going? What are they doing here?
Mr. Morgan: We focus so much on the humanitarian crisis—those families, unaccompanied minors come from the Northern Triangle—that we’ve forgotten about the other part of this national emergency: the national threat that we face because of the southwest border.

So although 65 percent are family units and unaccompanied minors, that still leaves 35 percent of people coming across that they’re not all good. And this is the false narrative. Some of them are rapists, some of them are murderers, some of them are pedophiles. Some of them are gang members. This year already, Border Patrol has apprehended as many gang members so far in the first six months than they did all of last year. That’s a fact. It’s not hyperbole. And we need to make sure we’re being intellectually honest.

And that’s just who we’re apprehending. Again, the border is still 60 percent wide open, meaning it doesn’t have enough infrastructure, technology, and personnel. And because anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of Border Patrol resources are being pulled away and dedicated to the humanitarian side, the border is even more wide-open for the cartels to do what? Exploit. To bring drugs, contraband, and bad people in.

The Epoch Times: The Yuma Border Patrol chief said 50 percent to 60 percent of his manpower is on this humanitarian effort, not controlling the border. All three of his highway checkpoints are closed right now. And those checkpoints last year seized 1,800 pounds of methamphetamine. That’s now just flowing straight into America everywhere.
Mr. Morgan: Absolutely. And so to put it in perspective, when I was there in 2016 as the chief, I estimated about 15 percent of the Border Patrol agent resources were pulled off the line to do humanitarian tasks—that was a complete crisis in my opinion.

And now, in some sectors, it’s up to 40 percent of the Border Patrol resources are being pulled off the line. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what that does to the border. It’s wide-open and the cartels are exploiting this every single day.

The Epoch Times: Is it that Congress doesn’t understand the magnitude of the problem or is it playing politics?
Mr. Morgan: So this is a tough question for me to answer because I’m not a political guy. I’m a law enforcement guy. So I’ve been really trying hard to just look at this from facts and historical data and not put myself in the political arena. But after serving this country for 30 years and knowing this border—both from an FBI perspective and a border patrol perspective—you can only draw one conclusion, because the facts are there.

What we need to do is very clear. Congress needs to fix the Flores Settlement Agreement and TVPRA, and catch-and-release ends. This problem, Congress could fix in 15 minutes by doing those two things, and they know that.

So I can only draw one conclusion: that they’re not doing this [is] based on their political agenda and their ideology. For me, I can draw no other conclusion from a law enforcement perspective because they know. The experts have been telling them for a very long time what they need.

We’re going to expect a million [people] this year. That’s not hyperbole, that’s fact. You know, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said a bad day—and I was a Border Patrol chief under Jeh Johnson—for him was 1,000 apprehensions. We’re getting 4,000 a day now. And he says, in anybody’s definition, it’s a crisis.

The Epoch Times: What is the real reason anyone in American politics would want the border to be open?
Mr. Morgan: I don’t want to get into the minds of the politicians. All I want to do is make sure the American people know that this is absolutely a crisis. And that it’s not just for the border cities or the border towns. Every city in this country is a border city. These individuals coming across are entering every major metropolitan city in this country. And there. So there’s a taxpayer burden that goes along with that.

But we have to remember, a lot of times, again, we get sidetracked with the individuals coming over here, either legally or those that are claiming asylum. We forget to talk about the ones that are entering illegally that are bad people. There are. What about the thousands and thousands of angel families, the thousands and thousands of American citizens that had been killed by illegal aliens that had ICE detainers, multiple ICE detainers that should not have been here. Those are [deaths] that could have been prevented.

The Epoch Times: Let’s say Congress does nothing, which is a high potential. How can this be fixed without the Flores and the TVPRA being tweaked?
Mr. Morgan: We have to change our complete mindset. We need to stop thinking that the Northern Triangle countries are going to fix this in the short term, that Mexico is going to be a partner in the short-term fix, or the Congress is going to be a partner in the short term. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we still don’t work with the Northern Triangle, Mexico, and Congress. We have to. But those are long term, if at all, is going to happen.

We’ve given hundreds of millions of dollars in the Northern Triangle countries forever. And what has happened? The numbers continue to skyrocket. We’ve been working with Mexico for decades to try to get them to be part of the solution here and they’ve failed. They’re still on the sidelines. We’ve been working with Congress for decades to fix this, and they failed.

We need to look at the regulations that handle credible fear. And we need to improve the burden of proof, because we know that 85 percent of the claims are found to be unsubstantiated. So we know that there’s an issue with the credible fear. It’s too loose. We need to tighten that up.

I think we need to pass a regulation that will actually give ICE the ability to detain family units while they’re going through the immigration process. At the same time, let’s reinstitute what they used to do called “port courts.” That means we shut all the assets, a whole government approach down to the border, everything that you need, soup-to-nuts, to be able to have the immigration hearing and do that quickly. And then, if those claims are found to be substantiated, then they'll be allowed in. If not, we remove them immediately.

And the last thing that I would do that closes that incentive package that’s out there—because again, they’re not coming here because of what’s going on in the Northern Triangle countries. They’re coming here for economic equality. That’s it. And to some degree, family unit reunification. So we need to remove that incentive. And so the last part of that is we need to ramp up our interior enforcement. There are over a million illegal immigrants who entered the country illegally, filed a false claim, have received due justice through the immigration proceedings, and they’ve found to be false, and they’ve received a deportation order removal. A million, and they still remain here illegally.

We can’t wait for Congress. We need to act ourselves.

The Epoch Times: Are all of those things possible for the administration to do without judicial interference?
Mr. Morgan: So that’s the other thing. Every single time that Congress fails to do what they do, and this White House tries to do something, what happens? Congress—the very entity that’s not doing their job—puts roadblocks up every time the White House tries to do their job.

And then, judicial activism. I’ve never seen judicial activism at the height it is now, especially on this issue. It’s just incredulous to me.

I always say if I had five minutes, I would tell [Trump]: “Mr. President, sir, stay the course, fight it. Take that to the Supreme Court.”

Because if he could win in the Supreme Court about making the asylum seekers remain in Mexico, that’s huge. I mean, right there is a game-changer to be able to do that. If we can apply the Migrant Protection Protocols along the whole southwest border, and make individuals wait in Mexico, you’re going to see those numbers go drastically down, because you’ve removed the incentive. You now will be telling them, no, you don’t get to grab a kid and get a free pass into the United States.

The Epoch Times: But what incentive does Mexico have to support the Migrant Protection Protocol. Wouldn’t they have to be a willing partner in it?
Mr. Morgan: So that’s an issue. And in Mexico, it’s very complicated. As long as the cartels are profiting from this immigration, Mexico is going to be stymied to some degree what they’re going to be able to do about it. Because the cartels own that country.

As soon as it stops becoming profitable, and starts becoming an issue for the cartels, then you'll see them go back to their old ways of just doing drugs again. So that’s an issue that’s got to be addressed. For Mexico to be a really valuable player in this, we have to address the cartels. But here’s another thing. Let’s force Mexico to deal with the cartels a little bit more. And I think the president’s threat of shutting down the border is having an impact.

The Epoch Times: Is there anything that we didn’t cover that’s important?
Mr. Morgan: The demographic issue, because there’s a really huge false narrative out there that the numbers are not anywhere near what they used to be, so it’s not a crisis.

So back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I think we reached a height of about 1.5 million. There are two distinct differences that really drives these false narratives.

First, is that the individuals coming across were being caught and sent back two or three times on the same day. So really if you look at it at 1.5 [million], it’s really probably around a million or even less.

The second part of that false narrative is that 99 percent of them were Mexican adults, and within a couple of hours through expedited removal, we were removing 90 percent of them.

Now, this year, we’re anticipating a million, but 65 percent of them are family units and unaccompanied minors. And because of our broken laws, they get to come in, which means 650,000 to 700,000 this year are going to be allowed into the interior United States. So that’s why it’s no comparison from back in the ‘90s to now. And that’s why I’ve been actually saying the crisis that we’re facing right now is the worst in our history along the southwest border.

And what the American people need to understand, too, is that of that 650,000 that we’re going to let in, 85 percent of their claims are going to be found to be false and they’re going to be given an order of deportation—which they’re not going to comply with. And so each year, each month, we’re adding tens of thousands of people that now have been ordered removed and are here illegally, and we’re not doing anything about it.

And the taxpayers are footing the bill.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.
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