Border Patrol chief out day after Trump border fence decree

Border Patrol chief out day after Trump border fence decree

ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Border Patrol chief is leaving the agency on the heels of President Donald Trump's announcement of an ambitious plan to build a massive wall at the Mexican border and hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

It was not immediately clear whether Mark Morgan resigned or was asked to leave.

Customs and Border Protection said Thursday that Morgan's last official day in office will be Tuesday. But a U.S. official and a former official said Border Patrol agents were told Thursday that Morgan was no longer with the agency.

The U.S. official wasn't authorized to discuss the move before a public announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The former official asked not to be identified before a government announcement.

Morgan was named to 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 Morgan for "his unwavering dedication to our border security mission" and "lifelong career in service to the nation."

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 Trump early and forcefully during the presidential campaign. The National Border Patrol Council had advocated for an insider to lead the agency and sharply criticized Morgan at almost every turn.

The former official said Morgan was not at work yesterday and did not attend a gathering at the Homeland Security Department with Trump and newly appointed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

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

The union was incensed when Morgan told a Senate hearing Dec. 1, in response to a question from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., 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. 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," 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 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."

___

Spagat reported from San Diego.

Photo: People pass graffiti along the border structure in Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration controls Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and cut federal grants for immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities." (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

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