Aug 6, 2020
Acting Border Chief Mark Morgan Immigration Enforcement Update Transcript August 6
Acting Border Chief Mark Morgan gave an update on immigration enforcement and COVID-19 on August 6. He said: “We must secure our borders from illegal aliens who show their complete disregard of even the most basic application of health and safety precautions which have become our new norm against COVID-19”. Read the transcript here.
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Mark Morgan: (00:00)
All right, I think we’re socially distanced. I think I can take this off. So, first of all, everybody thank you, as always, for being here today and today, just like to take a few minutes to update you on CBPs COVID-19 response, that’s really going to be the focus of this briefing as well as our operational results for the month of July. And then I’ll take some questions. I think everybody knows the president is speaking at 2:45, so we obviously want to keep it within that. So, we don’t interfere with that. COVID-19 so despite the dangers posed by COVID-19, illegal immigration, it continues. Putting American lives at risk. Migrants continue to ignore their countries stay at home guidance as well as they continue to ignore the guidance of global medical experts. American citizens have made tremendous sacrifices as we fight the spread of this disease and fight to strengthen our economy.
Mark Morgan: (00:57)
As the US continues to take on the challenges posed by COVID-19. We must secure our borders from illegal aliens who show their complete disregard of even the most basic application of health and safety precautions which have become our new norm against COVID-19. I know I’m stating the obvious there, the criminal organizations and smugglers, which we’ve talked about over and over again, who provide false promises to the illegal aliens, have no concern for their safety or the safety of American citizens. Again, in this backdrop of COVID-19, the aliens are hidden in overcrowded and unsanitary stash houses, and tractor trailers for days. Some of these pictures you’re seeing, we have volumes countless pictures, after picture, after picture of what we’re showing you right now, and we’ll make these pictures available to you for those that want it. These places are akin to an oven in the sweltering heat of the Southern border.
Mark Morgan: (01:56)
Perfect incubators for COVID-19. There’s no social distancing, no appropriate PPE to mitigate the spread under these conditions that you’re looking at right now. As we’ve said, time and time again, they often travel long distances. And now though, what’s key is they’re traveling through COVID hotspots inside Mexico, a country whose COVID cases, and deaths continue to rise, even though some of the illegal aliens, know, or highly suspect that they have COVID, they know it or suspect it, they’re still coming. They’re exposing everyone they come in contact with during their journey, as they illegally try to enter this country. Now, while we’re still navigating this deadly pandemic, it’s not about migrants risking their lives any longer. And we talked about that. It’s way beyond that. Now they’re risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. They endanger the lives of CBP personnel and their families and those in our border communities and beyond they don’t just remain in the border towns and cities.
Mark Morgan: (02:59)
They have responsibility with respect to this, as we’re navigating a global pandemic. This is precisely why the administration moved swiftly to address the health pandemic at the borders for safety and security of every American citizen. The administration’s implementation of title 42 has been a game changer to further reduce the introduction of COVID-19 in the US through illegal entry. Title 42 has nothing to do with immigration enforcement. I’m going to say that again. I’ve said it before. I’m going to continue to say it. Title 42 has nothing to do with immigration enforcement and everything to do with public health. Protecting American lives, reducing the spread of COVID-19 and helping our economy get back on track. CDC’s public health order under title 42 allows us to swiftly process and return most illegal aliens back to Mexico or Canada without bringing them into our facilities and our congregate settings.
Mark Morgan: (04:02)
The implementation of title 42 has saved countless American lives and CBP personnel. From my perspective, someone who’s been in law enforcement for a long time, this title 42, this policy, this law is just common sense. Last month, CBPs encounters with illegal border crossers totaled just over 40,000, although it’s considerably lower than what we encountered this time last year, which was about 81,000, just over 81,000. It’s not just about the numbers. And we talked about this quite a bit before we came to have to navigate through the pandemic. It’s about our ability to effectively address the threat, regardless of the numbers, our ability to address the threat, regardless of the number. And because of this president’s public health policies we’re doing just that. Under title 42, it gives us the statutory authority to do what we need to do to protect the American people. With title 42, CBP has been able to process and return 91% of the illegal border crossers that are amenable to the title 42 public health order. Generally, in under two hours.
Mark Morgan: (05:16)
This absolutely has dramatically reduced the COVID-19 exposure and transmittal into the United States across the board. As I mentioned before, can you imagine if we had 20,000 individuals in custody today in the middle of this global pandemic? That’s what we were looking at last June. 20,000 individuals in our custody. It’s just what we all know. We’ve been navigating this for quite some time now. We know it only takes a small number of individuals with COVID, to effect a large number of individuals. In our case of large number of individuals that we would have detained in our custody, as well as that exposure to our own personnel, potentially overwhelming, already struggling local health care system, along the border. A single COVID illegal alien could infect hundreds of other illegal aliens as well as our workforce. It would be catastrophic.
Mark Morgan: (06:09)
Title 42 is preventing such a catastrophe. CBP has already lost 25 personnel in the line of duty because of COVID. 10 already. In my opinion, as acting commissioner, there’s no doubt the title 42 has prevented more tragic loss among our own workforce. Additionally, thankfully, I think I’ve mentioned this before. We were much better positioned prior to COVID because of the network of initiatives provided by this administration. Which had a couple of major impacts. One is it reduced the migration flow by 75%. This is prior to COVID. And our in custody numbers from 20,000 to just over 3,400 by March. Think about that. 20,000 to 3,400 and then title 42 came along on March 21st, which reduced that down even further. Now we average about three to 400 a day. This is truly a success from a public health perspective, from anyone’s perspective, from a common sense perspective, we went from 20,000 to 3,400 and now individuals in our congregate settings, what would be a Petri dish in some locations with respect to COVID, now we’re about three to 400 absolute success.
Mark Morgan: (07:33)
But we’re not out of the woods yet. In fact, it’s likely to become increasingly challenging due to the deteriorating economic conditions in Mexico, Central America and beyond exasperated by COVID-19 and the willingness of many migrants to jeopardize the lives of many for their own economic endeavors. It’s not slowing down. Even as COVID continues to challenge the Western hemisphere, we’re still seeing a high volume of illegal migration. And another key point is the demographics has changed dramatically as well. Last month in July 78% of our total enforcement encounters were migrants from Mexico, mainly single adult men seeking jobs in the United States. This new surge of single adult Mexican males are not simply turning themselves over to the United States border patrol like we saw families do this time last year. They’re running, they’re fighting. They’re doing everything that they can to avoid apprehension.
Mark Morgan: (08:31)
They absolutely have no appreciation for the deadly consequences of their actions while we’re navigating a global deadly pandemic. And that’s why I say this as someone who’s been in law enforcement for over almost 30 years and as acting commissioner well, my staff for my position, there’s no greater time than this very moment that we have an administration that believes and truly understands the importance of border security. That knows that border security is national security. That knows that border security is economic security and that strong and effective border security is a must to ensure the public health and safety of every American citizen. And organizations like CBP need the tools like title 42, during an infectious disease pandemic to effectively do our jobs to protect the American people. This president gets it.
Mark Morgan: (09:27)
Tools like the border wall system. We’ve said it countless times. I’ve said it countless times, and I will continue to say it because it’s true. I know it’s factual and I believe it with every mile of new border wall system that goes in the ground, the operational capacity of the United States border patrol significantly increases their ability to stem the flow of illegal migration, to ability to STEM the flow of drugs and criminals for being introduced into our country exponentially improves. The wall has also served as an effective tool to further reduce the introduction of COVID-19 into this country. And why we-
Mark Morgan: (10:03)
Use the introduction of COVID-19 into this country. And while we have been navigating, COVID-19 civil unrest, drug smuggling, and the countless responsibilities this organization have, we along with this administration, has never wavered from our commitment to the American people to build the border wall system. To give you an example, Jared Kushner, took on a leadership role several months ago and because of his direct efforts, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and CBP are actually moving faster than ever. The last few months, we’re navigating everything that I just mentioned, we’re putting more wall system in place every single day than we have before. We’re now up to 265 miles, I probably got to check right now, we probably added a mile or two since I put this down in my talking points. And every mile is a new mile of border wall system.
Mark Morgan: (10:51)
And we remain confident by the end of this year, we’ve been saying for a very long time, even though we had a lot of naysayers out there, by end of this year, we’re going to have 450 miles of new border wall system in the ground, and America will be safer because of it. Drugs. We know that regardless of the pandemic, there’s no day off for the cartels and the drug trafficking networks. Sorry to say, I’m going to say, the disgusting cartels and drug trafficking networks that continue to exploit the pandemic by attempting to move narcotics and other dangerous and deadly drugs across our borders. Nationwide, CBP’s July interception of hard drugs increased across the board. That translated into about a 12% increase from this time last year.
Mark Morgan: (11:32)
If you remember, as we started to deal with the global pandemic, we saw a slight dip as the cartels weren’t sure how to deal with it as well. And of course they always do, they got right back on track. They changed their TTPs, their techniques, tactics, and procedures and now those numbers are back up again across the board. Cocaine, meth, heroin, and fentanyl, all four categories. We’re also, and we’ve talked about this, we’ve been out there a few times talking about this, is that we’re also intercepting counterfeit COVID products. Since the pandemic began, CBP seized more than 120,000 FDA prohibited test kits and more than 12,000 counterfeit masks. And there’s a couple of pictures of that. Finally, before I turned over to you guys for some questions, is that I always do this, I think it should be no surprise because I think it’s critical. And although it gets some attention, it doesn’t get enough attention, for obvious reasons in my opinion.
Mark Morgan: (12:24)
I want to discuss the aspect of remission. That is critically important. That I think really goes to the heart, soul and character of every man and woman that belongs to this organization. It’s the lifesaving rescues by our agents and officers. These officers do this almost every single day. Someone is trying to illegally enter this country. They’re saving them, almost on a daily basis. They don’t care where they come from, they don’t care on the fact that they illegally entered. I’ve said this a hundred times and I keep saying it. What they see is a human being in distress and they do everything that they possibly can based on their training, even risking their own lives, to save someone simply because they’re a human being in need of help.
Mark Morgan: (13:05)
In July alone, CBP conducted more than 541 rescues. Think about that. In 30 days, 30 days, 541 rescues. Since the beginning of the FY20, CBP has rescued more than 3,900 individuals. As I mentioned early, one of the main drivers of illegal immigration is the disgusting human smugglers who care nothing about anyone. All they care about is power and money. These smugglers often pack their human cargo into dangerously hot crowded trailers with no ventilation, food or water, and typically no means of escape. You’ve seen several pictures since I’ve been talking. This is just a little bit of the number of pictures we could show you, the number of encounters with respect to what these human smugglers are doing to these individuals. It’s absolutely horrific. And we’ve seen an increase in a couple of sectors like Laredo specifically. During the height of a global pandemic, we’re actually seeing an increase in that type of activity at the hands of the smugglers. It’s horrific under any circumstance, but during the height of a global pandemic, it’s absolutely horrific. Border patrol agents. They often find lost migrants who are ill, injured, and abandoned. In fact, several illegal aliens who we’ve encountered needing immediate medical attention which they are, they’re provided that attention right away. Oftentimes they’re actually taken right from the border where they just recently increased directly to the hospital for immediate medical attention. Actually while they’re getting that medical attention, being treated for broken bones and the list goes on, they also later are found to be tested for positive for COVID. Now more than ever, migrants should for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones and everyone else they would come in contact with including the men and women of CBP, they should comply with the travel restriction of their own countries and heed the warnings of medical experts. If they do, lives will be saved.
Mark Morgan: (15:08)
In conclusion, CBP continues to confront and combat COVID-19, even as we intercept criminals, human smugglers, drug smugglers, and counterfeiters who try to breach our border security in every conceivable way. Our agents and officers continue to do a tremendous job, day after day, month after month and I could not be prouder of them. With that, I’ll take your questions. [inaudible 00:15:32]
Speaker 1: (15:33)
Hi. Some people in the media are critical of the title 42 influencing legitimate people seeking asylum. Can you address that?
Mark Morgan: (15:47)
I think I showed that as we’re navigating a global pandemic, I believe that the president’s first responsibility is to the American people. And that is why CDC and again, I think it’s very key. This is not an immigration enforcement tool. I think that’s very important to keep repeating because people are good at getting that convoluted. So what’s happening under title 42 has nothing to do with immigration enforcement and asylum. That’s part of the immigration enforcement mechanism. What we’re talking about is CDC’s order, a public health order and they said, “Look, you need to not bring these individuals into your congregant settings. It’s dangerous. It’s going to further introduce COVID-19 into this country.” And so that’s what title 42 is about. When we encounter someone from a public health perspective, and what I will say though is, we’re still absolutely meeting and maintaining our refoulement obligation if someone proactively states that they have fear of torture to return to their country where we are absolutely meeting that obligation.
Speaker 1: (16:57)
Can I follow up on that then what you just said. How many people have been, since March, since this title 42 went into place, how many people have been referred for [inaudible 00:07:06]?
Mark Morgan: (17:07)
I don’t have the numbers. I can refer you to Cory and the team to get those numbers. We can get you those numbers.
Speaker 1: (17:12)
If what you’re saying, if the people are out here still meeting those obligations, people are absolutely having that opportunity and still being referred, it’d be good to know how many people-
Mark Morgan: (17:21)
We can get those numbers, absolutely.
Speaker 1: (17:24)
And how many immigrants in CBP custody have tested positive for COVID? A few months ago, CBP sent out a statement saying none, but then also refuse to say whether they were testing in custody. So are you testing in CBP custody and how many have tested positive for COVID?
Mark Morgan: (17:38)
Okay. So first, some of the premise of your question, I don’t agree with. I don’t believe we’ve ever refused to answer any questions. I know I’ve never refused to answer any questions.
Speaker 1: (17:49)
I didn’t say anything about refusing to answer question. I said CBP proactively sent out a statement in which they said that none had tested positive.
Mark Morgan: (17:53)
Okay. I thought you said something about we’ve refused to give information. [crosstalk 00:17:56] That’s okay. So the answer to your question though is yes. Just like we always have, again, this isn’t our first rodeo with infectious diseases, although this is unprecedented. And so our procedure is, is those individuals that we actually accept into our custody, again, title 42. We’re removing them right away. They’re not coming in into our normal custodial situation. But those that we do bring in, we follow the procedures that we always have been, right? That means if anyone’s showing signs or symptoms, we’re going to provide them that appropriate test, we’ll take them to the local healthcare provider, and we’ve done that. I’ll give you an example. I think right now, and you can get with Cory afterwards to make sure I’m right on these numbers. But right now we’ve had about 60 individuals that are brought into our custodial study and they have tested positive for COVID.
Mark Morgan: (18:40)
And I think that’s very important. The majority of those, I think actually almost all of them, and again, you can get some more fidelity on that, have been individuals who we encountered as part of rescues. They’ve tried to illegally enter and they’ve fallen off the wall and they’ve broken ankles or we’ve got them and they’re dehydrated because they were abandoned by smugglers and we get to them right away. And these agents and officers are no kidding, saving their lives. And we’re taking them directly to the hospital and once they get to the hospital, then they’re being tested later and we find out they were COVID. There’s been more than one case where a individual that we apprehended in that situation admitted that they thought they probably had COVID and they still continued to come to the United States. So, [inaudible 00:19:25]
Speaker 2: (19:26)
[inaudible 00:19:26] and thank you very much for having this press conference. You mentioned earlier that several of the immigrants or illegal immigrants either know that they have COVID or suspect that they have COVID. Is that based on self reporting or how do you assess that?
Mark Morgan: (19:39)
A little bit of both. That’s a good question. So we’ve had one or two that we’ve encountered that just admitted. Yeah, they think they had COVID and they were exhibiting the signs and symptoms. We have the other individuals that we encountered and they were clearly exhibiting signs and symptoms and they had other elements, like I said, either they’re dehydrated or they’d fallen off the wall and we take them to hospital and then later they in fact tested-
Mark Morgan: (20:03)
They’ve fallen off the wall and we take them to the hospital and then later they in fact tested positive for COVID so it’s a little bit of a mix across the board.
Mark Morgan: (20:08)
So look, from my perspective, that should really concern everybody in this country, is that we have individuals that are still trying to illegally enter this country in those conditions. They know what’s going to happen to them. They know that the human smugglers are going to abuse them and exploit them. They know that the human smugglers are going to put them in stash houses, tractor trailers, they know that and they’re still doing it. They know that individuals, they know or suspect that they have COVID but yet they’re still trying to illegally enter this country. That is unconscionable and while absolutely, and we’ve been talking about this. The cartel is a human smuggling organization, make no mistake. That’s who we should all be united against. Those disgusting organizations, but at some point, we need to have the intellectual honest conversation that in the middle of a global pandemic, individuals have responsibility too. We’re talking about America shutting stuff down. We’re having that dialogue back and forth on whether we shut down church, whether we shut down gyms, whether we shut down restaurants, but yet we’re not united to say that illegal immigrants should stop right now, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.
Mark Morgan: (21:20)
It’s not just about them anymore. They’re not just risking their lives anymore. They’re risking, when they get put in a stash house, they’re risking every other immigrant in that stash house. When they get put in that tractor trailer, they’re risking the life of every other immigrant in that tractor trailer. When they try to illegally cross and they run from the United States Border Patrol and those agents have to track them down to do their job and enforce the law along our borders, they’re putting every single agent’s lives at risk, and that agent goes home at night. That agent goes home at night. They’re mothers, they’re fathers. They have families. They’re going home and now their exposure has increased and it shouldn’t be that way during a global pandemic. Heed the warnings of your own countries with respect to travel restrictions. Heed the warnings of the medical experts that are saying this is not appropriate behavior. You’re risking everybody’s life. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 3: (22:12)
I’d like to ask you about the recent ProPublica story following up on the racist and sexist Facebook pages. Do you plan at some point to publish or put out something more detailed about what the agency has done, what happened and what you plan to do forward to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
Mark Morgan: (22:29)
Yeah, so we’ve done that. That information is out there. I can get back … [Corey 00:22:36], where are you at? [inaudible 00:22:36] Corey, we can get back … I’m not sure, have we published something on our website specifically with respect to that? Do we know? We can get back to you, so we’ve got that. We’ve gone to the Hill. All the oversight that we have from the Hill and we’ve addressed all of the committees I believe have full transparency. What I can tell you about that is look right away, we actually provided and got together a special … I call it a special taskforce that was specifically designed within our Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR, to specifically look at this case. We actually had a special DRB, a disciplinary review board t hat was made and we actually got together a single review official as well for the actual disciplinary outcomes, and so we’ve had discipline from found to be unsubstantiated all the way to removals and we’ve had a couple people retire but we can get that information out.
Mark Morgan: (23:31)
I think part of that dialogue is … Again, this is part of the dialogue that I think we should be having in the law enforcement profession, is what are the things that we can do, what are the areas that we can improve and get better? How can we improve the transparency? How can we continue to build upon the trust of the American people and the citizens that we serve? These are legitimate, honest conversations. Your question is a legitimate, honest question about hey okay, so this horrific action was done on Facebook, these horrific posts that were done, what have you done? What did you do? What’s the accountability? Those are all legitimate questions. Those are the type of things that we should be talking about to improve and having that full transparency. I’ll talk to OPR and whatever we’re able to release we’ll make sure that that gets released.
Speaker 3: (24:23)
I wonder if that also includes any new policies you are planning to put in place or have?
Mark Morgan: (24:24)
Yes, we already have. Some policies were already in place, but since then, we’ve instituted additional policies. In fact, don’t quote me on the numbers, but I think it was within just like maybe 45 days, 60 days, we instituted a training module that all employees had to take with respect to social media and et cetera, and you can imagine, social media is a tough nut crack to a little bit. Obviously everybody has First Amendment rights including law enforcement, but there’s also that line that you cross as well and obviously in the Facebook lines were crossed, clearly, right, I’m being captain obvious here. So we’re walking that fine line. So we’re having discussions with our attorneys, I call them our ten pound brains, on what can we do to strike that balance of not infringing on someone’s First Amendment rights but also make sure we’re drawing the line that when somebody goes and does cross that line, especially someone that’s got a badge on their chest that we’re holding them accountable for that behavior. So yes sir.
Speaker 4: (25:27)
[inaudible 00:25:27]. I was wondering if you had any response to Democrats in Congress who continue to push this false claim that the CBP agents and all the other federal agents that were deployed in Portland as being unidentifiable? I was just there last week and I could clearly tell whether they were U.S. Marshals or CBP. So I was wondering if you just had a response to that because there was a hearing in the Senate including the senators from Oregon continuing to say secret police are unidentifiable.
Mark Morgan: (25:55)
It’s outrageous at this point. At the beginning, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but we have done … We have bent over backwards, DHS, the secretary, the deputy secretary, both of them now had testified. We’ve gone on the Hill, all of us. We’ve been out in the media. We’ve opened ourselves up to everybody. We answered that question time and time and time again. It is clear, we’ve given an exorbitant amount of evidence that absolutely puts that false narrative to bed. The individuals that are still saying that, they simply are lying. They simply don’t want to hear the truth.
Mark Morgan: (26:29)
To me, look again, I’ve been a career law enforcement guy for 30 years. I’ve never seen it this bad where even after you briefed someone and you give them incontrovertible facts and truth, they’ll leave you and go out and lie about it again. That’s what I’m seeing and from my perspective, that’s nothing more than trying to score political points, putting politics above public safety in my opinion. We have given fact again and again, it was just a couple weeks ago that the Secretary of DHS stood up there, I was proud to stand next to him, and we addressed all these questions openly and honestly. I stood right there as I held up a kit, as I held up a vest, that clearly showed police. There was a slide that had six different identification patches that every single CBP employee wears, some of them wear eight, and we went through that methodically again and again and again and we still have people that are out there lying.
Mark Morgan: (27:18)
There’s even been a couple tweets out there [inaudible 00:27:20] secret police and unmasked and the irony is the very picture they have shows somebody with a patch on that says United States Border Patrol. It’s just absolutely untrue. It’s a lie, and I’ll go a step further. We’ve been having discussions. Again, ways that we’re listening, ways that we’re trying to get better, way’s that we’re trying to listen to perception. Even though I may not fully understand the perception, but there’s a lot of distraction about the color of the uniform there. A lot of talk about the multi-cam as we call it and how that was militarizing the law enforcement. I respectfully disagree. Those uniforms are the uniforms that have been tested time and time again and BORTAC for example, a special tactical team, they work in an environment throughout this entire country. They deploy to other countries as well. They work in every imaginable austere, adverse environment you can imagine, and that multi-cam actually is an effective uniform in most of the conditions they operate, especially along the Southwest border. So they came, that was just the uniform that they utilized.
Mark Morgan: (28:26)
But here’s what we did. We listened, we listened. We had discussions, and we learned that there’s this perception out there about the color of the uniform. And so guess what we did? We changed the color of the uniform. I’m proud we did that. I was just in Portland and I was talking to the operators. I said, “Hey, you guys okay with this?” “Of course. We’re good. We got it. We understand. We understand the perception.” It’s not based in I think something that is substantive in my opinion, the color of a uniform. What’s substantive is that every night for 60 nights, criminals, violent anarchists, opportunists, were attacking the federal courthouse and somehow they were trying to blame the president’s federal law enforcement. I think that’s substantive. But look, as we’re trying to have discussions, as we’re trying to again increase the public trust across the board, hey, if we can spend a little bit of money and change the color of our uniform and that environment to take that narrative away, okay. Yesterday I was in Portland and they were no longer in multi-cam.
Speaker 5: (29:31)
What are they in now?
Speaker 4: (29:32)
Yeah, following up. If I was to go to Portland and they’re there now, are they in kind of the typical uniform that you would see a border patrol agent wearing at the border or what are they wearing?
Mark Morgan: (29:43)
So that’s a really good question. If you think about that, no, and here’s why. They’re a different environment. The uniform … Like right now, Russell. The uniform that he’s wearing right now, that’s day to day, that’s what they need, but now when you go to a different environment, you go to a different threat, what they’re doing now in Portland is a different threat than what they face along the
Mark Morgan: (30:03)
… now in Portland is a different threat than what they face along the border, so they need different tools. They need a different type of uniform the way it’s designed, maybe pockets at different places, right? And so what they have now is a similar design uniform. It’s just green. It’s not MultiCam. It’s green. I call it Border Patrol green.
Speaker 6: (30:20)
Same uniform but just it’s green?
Mark Morgan: (30:24)
Yes. Same basic configuration of the uniform, the MultiCam it’s just green now, Border Patrol green. And you look at OFO, our offices of field operation have SRT. When you look at them, we don’t … John, you’re not wearing uniform, but OFO, they look just like Russell does except it’s blue day to day, but if you go up there, the special response team is more of a tactical uniform, but it’s blue.
Speaker 6: (30:50)
To follow up on-
Speaker 7: (30:50)
Last question and we’re going to take one from the phone.
Mark Morgan: (30:52)
Speaker 6: (30:52)
Okay. Just to follow up on that since I was just following up. For one, the data that you have in front of you, are you able to tell us how many children have been expelled in July?
Mark Morgan: (31:05)
I don’t have that data in front of me, but I think it’s on our website, or Cory, you can get that back to them, right?
Speaker 6: (31:11)
Let me just ask for the record, too. In terms of fulfilling our obligations on refoulement, is your interpretation of the law that means that if somebody expresses a fear of return to their country as a result of persecution that that requires a Border Patrol agent to refer them to a USCIS officer [crosstalk 00:31:31]?
Mark Morgan: (31:30)
If it meets that standard under CAT, yes. So if they come and that is presented and then the Border Patrol, from their perspective of supervisory of authority believes that they have met that claim, then absolutely it’s referred to the USCIS for an independent screening and evaluation?
Speaker 6: (31:49)
How is that being assessed right now if they’re doing that when they return?
Speaker 7: (31:52)
Okay, that’s the last question. We’re going to go to on on the phone.
Speaker 6: (31:52)
Just how is that being assessed if they’re being [inaudible 00:01:57].
Speaker 8: (31:53)
Someone’s question is important though. How is that being assessed?
Speaker 6: (31:58)
Mark Morgan: (32:00)
So say that again.
Speaker 6: (32:00)
Just how is it being assessed on the ground, because they’re being rapidly returned. They’re being expelled in a matter of hours as this agency has said, so if that’s true for the public health rule, how is their fear of being [crosstalk 00:32:14].
Mark Morgan: (32:13)
So my understanding right now, so if somebody comes and they make the claim that, that falls within the CAT standard, right, with respect to all refoulement obligations, then that request is going to be made to the Border Patrol agent that that makes contact. Then that agent is going to go to the supervisor, and the supervisor Border Patrol agent is going to make an assessment, whether they believe that that meets the CAT guidelines, and if that is done, then they’re referred to USCIS to conduct an independent evaluation.
Speaker 8: (32:43)
And they’re trained to know the standards?
Mark Morgan: (32:43)
Speaker 7: (32:43)
We’re going to the phone. We’ll have folks here that can field any follow up questions for you, and we’ll try to get you answers as soon as we can, so let’s take one from the phone.
Speaker 9: (32:54)
As a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press one then zero. Our first question comes from the line of Quinn Owen with ABC. Please go ahead.
Quinn Owen: (33:07)
Hi, acting commissioner. Thank you for doing the call and taking our questions. Just following up on that last one, can you talk about how your discussions with the CDC are going and when to make a call on whether or not to stop Title 42? And is it a balance of the numbers that you’re transferring into ICE custody, folks and kids who can’t be immediately sent back across the border? Could you just explain how you’re balancing that, the crowding of ICE facilities and the need to get people separated and at a safe social distance?
Mark Morgan: (33:48)
Yeah, so I appreciate the question. I think it really is D, kind of all of the above. It’s a totality of circumstances. CDC has the authority. It’s their statute. Ultimately, it’s their authority. They will be the ones that make the decision ultimately from a public health perspective. Now, they are getting input, and every 30 days we’re getting a USG team together that reevaluates the need for Title 42, but it’s not dependent on one thing. I think part of that challenge has been people overly focused on the United States. Before we started to see this uptick in the Southwest border, folks were only looking at the United States and saying “Hey, we’re starting to see a downtick a little bit.”
Mark Morgan: (34:29)
What I keep reminding everybody is it’s not just about what’s happening in America. It’s what’s happening in Mexico, what’s happening in Northern Triangle countries. It’s what’s happening in the Western Hemisphere. So again, if you look at Mexico, both their COVID positive and deaths are continuing to skyrocket. By everyone’s account, independent entities that have looked at that, that’s under-reported for a couple of reasons. But so there’s still a very real issue in Mexico. There’s still a very real issue in Northern Triangle countries, as well as the Western Hemisphere. Brazil, for example, continues to be an epicenter in the Western Hemisphere, which is one of the largest, most significant transit route for those that want to illegally enter and make their way to the United States.
Mark Morgan: (35:08)
So when we take a look at that, it’s going to be very, very important that we look at this from a totality situation and not just what’s happening in the United States. It’s possible, for example … I’m not saying this is the case. I’m not the medical expert, but just for sake of argument, it’s possible that the United States, we could start to see a down tick, but in the Western Hemisphere, we’re not. So the need for Title 42 will be more important than ever if we’re still seeing the Western Hemisphere is struggling with this from a global health, public health perspective. So we need to make sure that we’re not just looking at the United States.
Speaker 7: (35:49)
Quinn Owen: (35:52)
You can’t achieve those same public health goals by transferring kids to OR custody instead of ICE custody? Can you explain the difference?
Mark Morgan: (36:01)
Yeah, I sure can. I sure can. So again, what we’re trying to do the best we can is remove all individuals, regardless of whether they’re children, minors, or they’re adults. We’re trying to remove them as fast as we can to not put them into our congregate settings, to not put them into our system, to not have them remain in the United States for a long period of time, therefore increasing the exposure risk of everybody they come in contact with to include the workforce of all those different entities that would be impacted. Right now, if we have an individual who we cannot remove right away immediate within that two hours, although again, about 91% of individuals under Title 42, we’re able to do that, so you’re talking about a very small percentage. Yes, we will work with ICE. We’ll work with the home countries, and we are expeditiously trying to return them our settings.
Mark Morgan: (37:01)
For example, one of the main reasons why we work with ICE is because our settings in CBP are not conducive for children for longterm. In addition to that, they’re not conducive longterm in a global pandemic, so we try to get them to ICE that has the ability to isolate better, more effectively, and they’ve got a couple of different techniques that they’re using with respect to that. But again, the goal is to work with the home country under Title 42 of public health to get them out as soon as we can. If we introduce these individuals to OR, we’re defeating the entire purpose of Title 42. We’re still introducing these individuals into our system throughout and creating a greater exposure risk to the American people, and that’s why.
Speaker 7: (37:42)
Great. Thank you, everyone.
Mark Morgan: (37:42)
Speaker 7: (37:42)