Friday 17 November 2017

US Border Patrol chief 'forced out'

A Mexican soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side (AP)
A Mexican soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side (AP)

The US Border Patrol chief has been forced out a day after President Donald Trump announced an ambitious plan to build a wall at the Mexican border and hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents, according to a US official.

Mark Morgan told senior Border Patrol agents about his removal during a brief video conference on Thursday morning, saying he was asked to leave and that he decided to resign rather than fight the request, according to the official.

Customs and Border Protection said Mr Morgan's last official day in office will be Tuesday.

Mr Morgan was named in the post in June and took office in October.

The former FBI agent briefly led the internal affairs department at the Border Patrol's parent agency before heading the agency of roughly 20,000 agents.

In a statement, Kevin McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection's acting commissioner, praised Mr Morgan for "his unwavering dedication to our border security mission" and "lifelong career in service to the nation".

Mr Morgan leaves office only seven months after being named the first outsider to lead the agency since it was founded in 1924.

From the start, he clashed with the Border Patrol's union, which endorsed Mr Trump early and forcefully during the presidential campaign.

The National Border Patrol Council had advocated for an insider to lead the agency and sharply criticised Mr Morgan at almost every turn.

A former official said Mr Morgan was not at work on Wednesday and did not attend a gathering at the Homeland Security Department with Mr Trump and newly appointed homeland security secretary John Kelly.

During that visit Mr Trump singled out the union's president, Brandon Judd, while pointedly avoiding mention of Mr Morgan.

Mr Judd served on Mr Trump's transition team.

The union was incensed when Mr Morgan told a Senate hearing on December 1, in response to a question from Senator Tom Carper, that he supported a comprehensive immigration overhaul, which is often interpreted to include a path to citizenship for people who are in the country illegally.

Mr Morgan clarified his remarks in a note to Border Patrol staff the following week.

"I want to be clear what my position is regarding immigration reform," Mr Morgan wrote.

"I do not, as some have suggested, support what is often referred to as 'blanket amnesty.'

"This assertion could not be further from my position. I encourage everyone to listen to my testimony."

Despite pressure from the union, many agency officials said Mr Morgan appeared to embrace the job.

Less than a week ago, the first message on his new Twitter account read: "Chief Morgan here -- excited to use this account to share the latest news and events of the #BorderPatrol with followers."

AP

Press Association

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