Amid last month’s purge at the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump withdrew the nomination of Ron D. Vitiello as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying that he wanted to move the agency in “a tougher direction.” Trump has found the nominee to take ICE there in Mark Morgan, who served as the Border Patrol chief for six months during Obama’s second term. The president also tweet-announced that former ICE deputy director Matt Albence would now lead the agency as acting director; Albence is known for an August 2018 quote comparing ICE detention to “summer camp.”
Despite the rare prospect of a Trump administration official who has served under a Democratic president, Morgan’s recent comments on immigration certainly line up with the president’s impression of the border crisis. In an interview with Fox News on April 15, Morgan rejected the notion that Trump manufactured the crisis on the border and agreed with his proposal to release migrants in Democratic sanctuary cities.
“I’ve been there,” Morgan told Fox News. “The Border Patrol, ICE, their facilities are overwhelmed, the faith-based organizations and other nongovernmental organizations are overwhelmed. They have no choice. They’re going to have to start pushing these individuals out. Shouldn’t we kind of share the burden throughout the country?”
Of course, this assumes that migrants are a “burden,” a mind-set that sanctuary cities, their labor markets, and — obviously — asylum seekers themselves don’t automatically share. As New York’s Eric Levitz notes: “If one rejects [Trump’s] racist (and empirically baseless) presumptions about the effect that undocumented immigrants have on urban life, then he is essentially threatening to provide asylum seekers with free transportation to cities that are currently in need of more labor, and which have proved to be especially accommodating to America’s newcomers.”
The decision to nominate Morgan as ICE director was — like so many maneuvers by the president — a surprise to those closest to him. As Los Angeles Times immigration reporter Molly O’Toole writes, Morgan “has not yet been formally nominated,” according to one Senate aide, and that officials were “caught by surprise by Trump’s tweet announcing his pick.”