Since mid-January, the conservative local TV conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group has turned to Mark Morgan, Trump’s former acting chief of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), nearly a dozen times for commentary on immigration. But Morgan, who recently joined an extremist anti-immigrant organization, has a history of making numerous extreme and false statements about the topic during the Trump administration -- such as defending Trump’s family separation policy and applauding the Trump administration for detaining children in cages.
Morgan was made the chief of CBP in the last few months of the Obama administration, and he was fired shortly after Trump took office. Trump then nominated Morgan in 2019 to be his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director after Morgan appeared on Fox News dozens of time, where he lavished praise on Trump and his immigration policies. After a short time as acting ICE director, Morgan was then made Trump’s acting CBP chief.
Since Trump left office, Morgan has joined the right-wing Heritage Foundation and the extremist anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group due to its leaders’ ties to white supremacist groups and their racist statements opposing immigration.
During the Trump administration, Morgan falsely denied the existence of Trump’s family separation policy, approved of detaining children in cages, and made racist statements about immigrants
Both before and after Trump tapped him for immigration posts, Morgan made extreme and false statements -- mostly on immigration -- often on Fox News:
- Morgan said in a racist statement that he viewed each detained child immigrant as a “soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.” [HuffPost, 5/15/19]
- Morgan called for repealing laws banning indefinite detention of children to stop unauthorized immigration. [HuffPost, 5/15/19]
- Morgan denied immigrant children were kept in “cages,” saying, “They’re actually really nice facilities” with “chain-link fence.” [Media Matters, 3/7/19]
- Morgan repeatedly said CBP “should be applauded” for putting children in cages, and it “did an incredible job.” [Media Matters, 5/7/19]
- Morgan called for less restrictive “rules of engagement” on the southern border. [Media Matters, 4/24/19]
- Morgan excused armed vigilantes detaining migrants crossing the border. [Media Matters, 4/19/19]
- Morgan referred to Black Lives Matter protests as “acts of domestic terrorism.” [The Washington Post, 6/10/20]
- Morgan said people detained in ICE raids “have had more due process than ... any country would have given an immigrant.” [Media Matters, 6/25/19]
- Morgan was suspended from Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy by referring to border crossers as “gang members, murderers, sexual predators.” [Deadline, 10/31/20]
- Morgan falsely claimed the Trump administration “wasn’t separating families” but just following the law. He later denied the existence of Trump’s family separation policy: “There's never been a family separation policy. It doesn't exist. It never will exist.” In reality, the Trump administration made the decision to classify crossing the border without authorization as a criminal misdemeanor rather than a civil offense, and thus prosecuting every such immigrant, leading to the inevitable separation of thousands of families. Prior to this Trump administration change of policy, according to the Associated Press, “such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.” [HuffPost, 5/15/19; CBN News, 8/6/19; Media Matters, 6/18/18]
- Morgan joined Fox News in fearmongering about misleading arrest statistics of undocumented immigrants. Fox News was pushing a new report from the Department of Justice which stated that noncitizens make up 64% of federal arrests and that this figure had increased at a staggering pace. However, the increase wasn’t being driven by violent crime, but by the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigration. When asked about the figures on a Fox Business show, Morgan declared that they represent “a national security crisis.” [Media Matters, 8/23/19]
- Morgan pushed the right-wing lie that asylum seekers don’t show up for court hearings: “The incentive is: grab kid, step one foot onto U.S. soil, and you’re allowed in, never to be heard from again.” In fact, data show that a sizable majority of immigrants in recent years who are not detained attend their immigration court proceedings. Family units applying for asylum that participated in an Obama administration pilot program had nearly perfect attendance for their ICE check-ins and court hearings -- but the Trump administration canceled that program. And multiple studies and analyses have shown that several categories of asylum seekers had court hearing attendance rates of over 90%. [America’s Voice, 5/30/19; Media Matters, 5/10/19]
Sinclair Broadcast Group has interviewed, quoted, or cited Morgan nearly a dozen times since January 18
Even with this public record of extreme and false statements about immigration, Sinclair has interviewed, cited, or quoted Morgan at least 11 times since the beginning of 2021. These include appearances in national news packages -- which typically air on dozens of Sinclair stations each time -- and on Sinclair’s morning news program The National Desk, which airs on 68 Sinclair stations.
- A January 18 national news package by Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao quoted Morgan criticizing Biden’s proposal for a path to citizenship as “amnesty,” a right-wing dog whistle Republicans use to fearmonger about immigration.
- A January 25 Sinclair national news package from Frazao quoted Morgan’s criticism of Biden’s deportation moratorium.
- Another report from Frazao on February 2 quoted Morgan claiming that Biden’s immigration policies will encourage more unauthorized immigration.
- A February 8 news package from Frazao quoted Morgan fearmongering about a migrant caravan possibly containing people infected with COVID-19, even though it’s unlikely it will make it to the U.S. border.
- Sinclair’s The National Desk has cited Morgan in its immigration coverage at least 7 times between January 19 and February 9, according to a Kinetiq transcript search. This count includes an additional news package from Frazao, which aired on the program on January 27. [Kinetiq, accessed 2/10/21]