Trump Border Patrol pick Mark Morgan backed putting children in cages: “Border Patrol actually did an incredible job” and “should be applauded”

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Update (6/25/19): After a short stint as the acting director of ICE, Morgan will now reportedly be taking over as the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Mark Morgan, President Donald Trump’s choice to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has frequently defended the practice of putting migrant children in cages, complaining that the cages are being “disparaged as cages” and saying that “Border Patrol actually did an incredible job” and “should be applauded.”

Trump tweeted on May 5 that he would nominate Morgan to the job, which requires Senate confirmation. He previously served as the head of the Border Patrol during the last three months of the Obama administration and also worked for other law enforcement agencies.

In recent months, Morgan has become a regular presence in right-wing media, where he defends Trump’s immigration policies. He has appeared on Fox News at least 49 times this year and has also been a guest on online shows hosted by disgraced serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly and Daily Caller video columnist Stephanie Hamill, a Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theorist.

Morgan has also helped organizations devoted to pushing Trump’s agenda. He filmed an advertisement for the pro-Trump group America First Policies putting pressure on “Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) to back full funding of President Donald Trump’s border wall,” according to a news release. He also appeared at a February Washington, D.C., event with America First Policies and Women for Trump regarding immigration.

Criticism mounted in the summer of 2018 after reports surfaced about migrant children being held in cages at a U.S. Border Patrol facility. The Associated Press, for instance, reported in June 2018 that “inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.”

The Trump administration and its allies have disputed the cage characterization, with former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen telling Congress in March that the cages “are not cages, they are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they’re being processed.” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) tweeted in response to Nielsen: “I saw them with my own eyes. They’re cages. With children in them.”

During his appearances on conservative programs, Morgan has repeatedly defended the practice and said the cages aren’t cages. Here are five examples of Morgan praising and defending the policy of putting children in cages.

Morgan: “They're not cages. They're actually really nice facilities.”

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): They asked [Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen], are children put in cages? What's your response to that -- that were built during the Obama administration?

MARK MORGAN: Right, and that's a great -- it's totally a false narrative, it's a talking point for the Democrats. They're not cages. They're actually really nice facilities. And there are chain-link fence 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. And, remember, they're only there for max 72 hours before they've got to be released. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/19, via Media Matters]

Morgan to Tucker Carlson: “They should be applauded” for those cages.

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): I have to ask you about a factual claim that a member of Congress recently made, that the United States is taking children, keeping them in cages, and injecting them with drugs. Have you ever seen that?

MARK MORGAN: I tell you what, I -- I'm trying to restrain myself with this answer, because first of all, the United States Border Patrol, they should be applauded for what she’s talking about, cages.

In 2014, when this crisis started, they did an incredible job of scrambling, throwing money and putting a facility together to actually care for them properly because their facilities were overcrowded. In 2015, the administration then were saying what an incredible great job the Border Patrol did.

And those cages? The reason why they are designed that way is for the safety and security of the people that are in there. So, those comments she’s making are -- first of all, she is wrong. They are reckless and irresponsible. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/4/19, via Media Matters]

Morgan: “Those so-called cages were designed to safeguard the children. … Border Patrol, they actually should be applauded.”

MARK MORGAN: I’m still hearing this rhetoric, Gail, about the cages. That just frustrates me so much. First of all, let’s be factually, let’s be intellectually honest. Those so-called cages were actually developed under the Obama administration. And those so-called cages were designed to safeguard the children and families who’s come over because the detention facilities were so full, so crammed, they were unsafe. So CBP, specifically Border Patrol, they actually should be applauded. They scrambled and spent millions of dollars to put this facility together. And the reason why it’s designed the way it is is so that the Border Patrol can see through the areas to safeguard because they’ve got babies in there all the way up to 17-year-old kids. They have to be separated. It’s reckless when someone like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] is saying that and it just shows me she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she’s misinformed, and she’s never spent a day down on that border. [KFKA, Mornings with Gail, 4/8/19]

Morgan: “Border Patrol actually did an incredible job.”

MARK MORGAN: The Border Patrol was never designed for this crisis. Everything about them, their training, their mission, their facilities, are all designed for adults. And part of the whole process is you apprehend them coming in illegally, you process them, and you remove them back to their country of origin. That’s what the mechanism is designed for. So in 2014, we saw the influx first of children and then family units, it really caught everybody off-guard. And Border Patrol actually did an incredible job, and DHS, CBP. And when their facilities got filled, I mean, they created these new facilities that are now -- and again this was done under Obama -- and now they’re being disparaged as cages. Those facilities were set up under Obama, and the reason? Because Border Patrol facilities were tapped out and the conditions weren’t adequate for children and so they scrambled to set up these other facilities that would better facilitate the safety and security of families and children. They actually did an incredible job to really scramble and really address an unprecedented, unpredicted crisis in 2014. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Buck Sexton Show, 4/8/19]

Morgan: “The Border Patrol should actually be applauded for what they did.”

SHANNON BREAM (HOST): Mark, let me ask you, though, about the conditions in which these families, these kids were held under the previous administration, under this, were they different? Were they similar? What can you tell us about that?

MARK MORGAN: So, again, the president was absolutely right. The cages -- and I don't like that terminology at all. The Border Patrol should actually be applauded for what they did. Their facilities were crowded. They were unsafe and they were unhealthy. And so they quickly created these new facilities and they were safe conditions.

And the reason why there were chain-link fences is so the Border Patrol agents could actually see through, because you had anywhere from babies to 17-year-old kids in there along with parents. It was actually for their health and safety the way they were designed. And they've improved over the years. [Fox News, Fox News @ Night, 4/9/19]

This was originally published May 7, 2019.