Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Trump-administration officials, or ex-officials hoping to squeeze their way into the White House, have long used television as a means to directly contact the president, who is reported to watch up to eight hours a day. The strategy seems to have paid off for former Border Patrol head Mark Morgan: Five months into the year, he has already appeared on Fox News and its affiliate Fox Business Networks 80 times, where his support of a southern border wall may have helped earn him a surprise nomination for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early May.
Of the wealth of Morgan’s quotes calling for immigration restrictions and a southern border wall, one from a Fox News appearance on January 14 immediately stands out as his oddest statement on child migrants. “I’ve been to detention facilities where I’ve walked up to these individuals that are so-called minors, 17 or under,” Morgan told host Tucker Carlson. “I’ve looked at them — and I’ve looked at their eyes, Tucker — and I’ve said, ‘That is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.’ It’s unequivocal.”
The quote, dredged up by HuffPost, the media-monitoring site TV Eyes, and the Democratic PAC American Bridge, aligns with at least one impression the president holds of migrant children. On Long Island last May, Trump said unaccompanied minors have “exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country.” He added, “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.” Morgan expressed similar, if less supernatural, views on undocumented minors in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in April. “MS-13 is one of the most violent and prolific transnational gangs the U.S. [has] ever seen,” Morgan said in his prepared testimony. “And the influx of minors into the country through the current crisis will provide them with unlimited vulnerable prospects.”
While MS-13 has certainly committed horrifically violent crimes, as ProPublica’s Hannah Dreier notes, “MS-13 is not the largest, the most violent, or the fastest-growing gang.” A survey conducted by police in New York’s Suffolk County found that only a quarter of local MS-13 members came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The Trump administration tends to overstate the relationship between undocumented migrants and crime. According to a joint study from the Marshall Project and the New York Times, a local increase in undocumented migrants shows no correlation with an increase in area crime.