Behind this week’s migrant-center horrors lies an agency plagued by years of dysfunction—and Trump is only its latest problem.
By GARRETT M. GRAFF
July 15, 2019
Vice President Pence’s Friday visit to a Border Patrol detention facility in Texas didn’t go according to plan. Meant to pressure Democrats to address the migrant crisis at the southern border, the visit instead appeared to horrify those who accompanied Pence and raised pointed questions about Customs and Border Protection, America’s most troubled law enforcement agency.
Nearly 400 migrants were crammed into a converted vehicle sallyport; many hadn’t showered in weeks, and space was so tight there was no room for cots for them to sleep. “The stench was horrendous,” the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey wrote, noting that Border Patrol agents were wearing face masks and saying, “Pence appeared to scrunch his nose when entering the facility, stayed for a moment and left.”
“It’s tough stuff,” Pence said. “I was not surprised by what I saw,” the vice president told reporters. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”
The visit capped one of the worst weeks for the CBP and the Border Patrol in modern memory, as the agency tasked with meeting record-setting numbers of migrants seeking asylum from violence in Central America reeled from personnel scandals, leadership scandals and the scandal of its treatment of those asylum-seekers. Agents were caught making racist comments in a Facebook group—a group that the chief of the Border Patrol evidently was a member of herself—and minting a commemorative coin mocking the idea of taking care of children and migrants.
Last week’s scandals followed months of worrisome headlines concerning CBP: At least 12 migrants have died in the agency’s custody since September, and its agents have been accused of everything from sexual abuse of migrant children, to trafficking firearms, to running down a border crosser with a truck. One Border Patrol agent was arrested and charged with being a serial killer. (Both Border Patrol union President Brandon Judd and CBP did not respond to requests for comment for this piece.)
Now it will be Mark Morgan’s job to clean up these problems. He was appointed to be the agency’s new acting head last Sunday after a short stint as acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where he spent much of his tenure advocating for a series of dramatic, publicly telegraphed immigration raids that ended up playing out more quietly than expected over the weekend.