As the debate about border security rages, and President Trump has agreed to temporarily end the shutdown, the leaders of the Democratic Party face a new challenge — agree to funding that includes a physical barrier, or stand firm in their refusal to offer any money for a border wall.
Amongst all the noise, an Obama-era border patrol chief has stepped into the fray to speak out.
Mark Morgan served two decades in the FBI before becoming Chief of the Border Patrol in 2016. Although he was dismissed from his position immediately after Trump’s inauguration, he believes in the president’s border policy.
The Daily Wire spoke with Morgan about the proposed southern border wall, its efficacy, and why some politicians are so reluctant to see it implemented.
DW: Why did the Trump administration let you go?
MORGAN: That’s always the question, and it’s one that I want to walk through deliberately. Because this isn’t about me being removed, and I really don't want that to be the story or the narrative. I don't have anything negative to say about my removal. But here's how it happened in a nutshell.
I was the first Chief of the United States Border Patrol that was appointed from outside of the border patrol in its history. The Border Patrol Council had some issues with that from the start, as did many of the rank and file, and I get that. They have a difficult mission and a proud culture of service to this country. I fully understand their belief that an outsider was not the right fit. Additionally, I made comments during congressional testimony about the need for immigration reform which was misinterpreted as supporting blanket amnesty. Although this was not an element I was supporting through my comments, after reflection, I can understand how my comments could be misinterpreted.
Additionally, during the 2016 campaign, the Border Patrol Council actually went out very publicly and supported then-candidate Trump.
And so when the president won the election, I was informed there were discussions with the White House administration, and told, "They wanted to go in a different direction." So the day after the inauguration, I was removed.
DW: Is the wall (or a barrier) the best solution?
MORGAN: That's a good question, and I think that's another reason why I decided to break my silence, because the rhetoric is really getting twisted, and it really confuses and misinforms the American people.
The answer is, "yeah," but there's a comma. So yes, the wall works. It's not needed everywhere, but it is needed in strategic locations along the southwest border. And what do we mean by the wall? The border security experts will tell you that the wall in and of itself is not the solution. The wall is a critical element as part of a multilayer strategy of infrastructure, technology, and personnel. So yes, as part of that multilayer approach, the wall absolutely works and there's historical data that can prove that. You can go to San Diego, Nogales, El Paso, anywhere where that multilayered approach has been used, where the wall is part of that, and illegal immigration has drastically reduced by around 90%, and overall crime in those areas has drastically reduced as well. It's not hyperbole; it’s not driven by political ideology. That's fact, and data can show that.
DW: What is the proof that a physical barrier would work?
MORGAN: Go talk to the Yuma County Sheriff, and he'll tell you that in 2005, 2006 when they started building the wall as part of that multilayer strategy, it works. He'll say illegal immigration in that area went down 90%, overall crime in his county went down drastically. It's just fact.
DW: What type of barrier would be the most effective? There’s been a lot of talk about walls versus fences, and we’ve seen all the different wall prototypes. In the end, what type of barrier would make the most sense, not only financially, but in terms of keeping the United States secure?
MORGAN: That's another great question that again gets twisted and manipulated, I believe, for peoples’ personal agenda and their own political ideology. For someone to say that a fence is okay, but a wall is not, that's just disingenuous. So the depth and height of the physical barrier is what makes something immoral or not? That's just ridiculous.
A quick sidebar — let’s go back to 2006 when a bipartisan bill called the Secure Fence Act was passed. The same people who are now saying that the wall is immoral voted for the wall back in 2006.
The experts, who have dedicated their lives to securing the border and protecting the safety and security of this country, will tell you that the type of barrier, wall, fence, whatever you want to call it, that’s needed is driven by many factors including terrain and differing operational needs. There’s different terrain and territory along the 2,000 miles of southwest border driving the different types of barrier applications required.
And I'll give you an example. If you talk to the experts, they'll say that you definitely want a barrier that you can see through, so you can see what's coming. There are other areas with levies and other things where really nothing else makes sense except to build a concrete type barrier. So, it really depends on the terrain and the territory. The strategy has never been to build a wall from sea to sea, but rather to build the type of wall, fence, barrier, whatever you want to call it, that is best suitable for that specific terrain.
DW: Why do you believe so many politicians are so vehemently against a physical barrier?
MORGAN: I'm doing my best to remain apolitical and approach this from a very narrow prism based on my 30 years of federal service in this country. I can't even begin to get into the politician's head regarding what motivates them to not support the wall, especially those who supported it in 2006 — but all of the sudden it's immoral. I don't understand that. What I can tell you is that it’s not true when they say the wall is ineffective. If somebody says that the wall is ineffective as part of that multilayer approach, they're misinformed and they're misleading the American people. And I even hate to speculate why they're doing that.
DW: Many politicians claim that a wall is "too expensive," but many who say this have voted for numerous things that were much more expensive, including but not limited to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was projected at that time to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Why do you think someone would vote for something so pricy and then call the $20 billion southern border wall "too expensive"?
MORGAN: When somebody says, "It's not effective," the only conclusion I can come to is that it’s being driven by their personal political ideology because fact, historical data, and expert opinion clearly show that nothing else makes sense.
First, in the past, in a bipartisan way, they've approved a heck of a lot more spending than the $5.7 billion that's being asked. Second, $5.7 billion is less than one fourth of 1% of our overall budget. So it's disingenuous to say that it’s "too expensive."
Third, when they talk about the wall in the context of cost, which some do, they know that they're misleading the American people because they've been briefed that this isn't just a wall, but a wall system. It's a smart wall. That comes with technology, it comes with access roads so personnel can access it. A lot comes with that. It's not just throwing up some steel and calling it a day — and that's why the cost is what it is. And don't forget, it's 230 new miles, plus the replacement and upgrading of hundreds of miles of old, ineffective barriers.
To say that $5.7 billion is too expensive to secure the safety of this country, I don't understand.
DW: Is there anything that you haven't been able to say, that the media hasn't touched on, that you would want to get across to a large readership about this issue?
MORGAN: I think what's important to hit is that we really do have a dual set of issues along the southwest border. We definitely have a massive security crisis as well as a humanitarian crisis. So just quickly let me dissect this, too. On the national security side, we definitely have bad things and bad people coming in, both through the ports of entry and then in between the ports of entry every single day.
The other element that goes really to the heart of your question as well is this — a lot of times, they'll use a talking point to illustrate how Customs and Border Protection interdicts more drugs at the ports as opposed to in between the ports of entry, and claim that because of that, we don't need the wall. And that's absolutely a false narrative because the border is so porous, we don't know what's getting through. But we do know that there is a ton of human trafficking, drugs, and bad people and gang members getting through our borders in between the ports of entry every single day because we need additional miles of wall to effectively secure the border and improve the border patrol’s operational control and response.
Let me give you an example. So, a little under 400,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended last year. Well, some experts will tell you that thousands more, more than likely double this amount, are getting through unapprehended because again, the border's so porous.
But let's cut that number in half, just for the sake of argument. Let's say it's 200,000 getting through because we didn’t have the resources to effectively enforce our borders. So you take the 400,000 that were apprehended, add another 200,000 that are getting through that we're not catching, and we have about 600,000. Well, that's bigger than the entire population of the state of Wyoming. How's that not a crisis?
Some people want to say that the numbers have been reduced from previous decades. But my first answer is, yeah, part of the reason why the numbers were reduced is because we built 700 miles of wall, and we improved our strategy, and we also implemented consequences, meaning we deported those who were coming into the country.
We need the wall as part of the multilayer approach to shut down the avenues in between the points of entry. Can it be defeated? Yes. But it's still 90% effective, and the last time I checked, 90% is a pretty good stat to have.
By building that wall, we're going to drastically reduce those avenues for the cartels. We’re going to shut down, to a great extent, their drug routes, human trafficking routes, and illegal immigration routes, and then we've funneled them to the ports of entry where now we have offensive advantage, and we stand a better chance of interdicting. And by doing that, the patrol’s operational capacity and control is extremely enhanced so that when things come to the wall, they'll have time to actually respond and interdict.
Now, let's move to humanitarian side, which is not really talked about enough. Here’s the thing — the wall and that multilayer strategy and personnel — none of that is going to address the humanitarian issue, and here's why.
[Morgan went on to speak about the loopholes in the asylum laws that are being exploited.]
All you have to do is say the magic words and you're allowed into our country. So you can either do that illegally or you can come to the ports. The same thing happens. If you come to the ports, you just have to wait a little bit longer. Again, that's why the incentive is there. It serves as a pull factor.
We need the wall as part of that multilayer strategy to really address the national security system, but then we have the humanitarian issue, and the only fix for that is legislative. We need to fix the asylum laws. We need to fix bad judicial case law such as the Flores decision.
So, why are parents turning their kids over to the cartels to make this dangerous trek, whether they’re in caravans or at the hands of the coyote, and paying thousands of dollars? The reason why they're doing that is because they know the incentive. Once they set one foot on American soil, and say the magic words, they're released into the United States never to be heard from again. Think about that. Why wouldn't they? This is the broken "catch and release" issue.
So, the very people that are against what I'm saying, who claim they're being compassionate, it’s actually the opposite. They're actually facilitating these individuals making this perilous trek. I'll give you an example. The Yuma County Sheriff said that during his time with the sheriff's department, his deputies recovered over 100 dead bodies of illegal immigrants — just his county — who died from exposure or other related things trying to enter the country illegally.
So we have to shut those loopholes in the asylum laws. We have to fix the bad judicial precedent to remove that pull factor, to remove that incentive, because if we don't, they're going to keep coming. So you really have two dual tracks. You've got one track, which is national security. Then you've got the humanitarian side where the only fix for that is legislative, and both have to be done.
The Daily Wire would like to thank Mark Morgan for speaking with us about border security.