WASHINGTON — President Trump was elected in 2016 on a promise to clamp down on illegal immigration across our southern border with Mexico.
But more than 2 1/2 years into his presidency, many more migrants are arriving at our border and living in detention facilities or elsewhere, awaiting immigration court action on their refugee applications.
Instead of curtailing the flow at the border during his presidency, there have been record numbers of refugees from Central American countries, including many children, seeking entry into the U.S.
U.S. border officials said they detained over 144,000 migrants at the border just last month, the highest number since 2006. Lately, however, their numbers have declined, as others have been turned back by the Mexican military.
But Trump is experiencing another problem in his efforts to keep his campaign promise on immigration: a chaotic mess among the bureaucracies responsible for border enforcement.
One week after he announced his intent to seek a second term, and promised to conduct a series of mass deportations, he replaced his interim border official with someone The Washington Post described as “a cable news pundit.”
Mark Morgan, a former 20-year veteran of the FBI, and the first outsider to lead the Border Patrol Agency, was chosen by Trump to become the acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early June.
Trump tapped him this week to be acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, replacing John Sanders, in a continuing shakeup of the government’s immigration and border security bureaucracy.
“Since April, the president has purged nearly all of the top officials remaining at [the Department of Homeland Security] from the beginning of his term, leaving every immigration-related U.S. agency with an interim leader,” the Post reported Wednesday.
Morgan’s views on immigration policy appear to be in lockstep with the president’s views. In November 2016, he testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, saying, ‘I think (comprehensive immigration reform) is definitely needed and we fully support that.”
Later, clarifying his position, he issued a statement saying, “I want to be clear what my position is regarding immigration reform. 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.”
His remarks triggered a rebuke, at the time, from the executive board of the National Border Patrol Council for the website Breitbart, saying Morgan was a “disgrace” for advocating some sort of immigration reform.
Meantime, the Trump administration has yet another child abuse scandal on its hands, as hundreds of migrant children were being held in filthy concrete cells near the border, according to lawyers who visited the facilities.
Lawyers for the migrant children “described scenes of sick and dirty children without their parents and inconsolable toddlers in the care of other children,” according to a front-page story in Wednesday’s Post.
“The alleged conditions raised the specter that masses of migrant children — some still in infancy — who had arrived unaccompanied or been separated from their relatives after crossing the border are being exposed to additional trauma as they spend days or weeks in ill-equipped Border Patrol stations,” the lawyers told the Post.
“Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which first takes the migrants into custody, and from the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the migrant children’s shelters, characterized the situation as a dire humanitarian crisis,” the newspaper reported.
This is the second time in more than a year that the Trump administration has been sharply criticized for the way its has failed to take proper care of young migrant children.
The first time this kind of story broke on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and in the nightly news, it was all part of the White House’s “zero tolerance” response to families who fled horrible conditions in Central America.
The House passed a $4.5 billion emergency border aid bill Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to do likewise.
This is a time when America steps forward to help those in desperate need. The administration, it seems, doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “humanitarian.”
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington
politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.