New Border Chief Aims to Reform Patrol Culture


(ESPAÑOL) The new border chief who would be in charge of guarding a wall with Mexico if Donald Trump is elected president isn’t so sure the strategy would keep undocumented immigrants out.

Instead, Mark Morgan —  the first outsider to lead the 21,000 uniformed agents who make up the U.S. Border Patrol — has had another priority in the three months he’s been on the job: changing the agency’s culture.

The law enforcement force on the front lines of U.S. border security has faced allegations of an overly confrontational approach that’s resulted in multiple fatal shootings, long unaddressed internal corruption and a lack of accountability in investigating misconduct.

“It was a culture of not getting out and talking about issues, not being transparent about the process that drove the perception there was a culture problem,” Morgan, a career FBI official and former Los Angeles police officer, said in his first interview since his appointment in June.

He’s devising strategies to help agents develop better intelligence on the drug cartels and smugglers behind so many illegal crossings. He’s coordinating multiple law enforcement authorities so that if agents do fire their weapons, there is a system to review whether the action was appropriate.

When it comes to enhancing border security, the wall the Republican nominee for president has proposed to keep out illegal immigrants does not top Morgan’s list, however hotly debated it has been. As a civil servant and not a political appointee, Morgan will be in the job whether Trump or Hillary Clinton is elected.

“A simplistic answer to an immensely complex problem,” is how Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, described the wall. He notes that the government “spends a tremendous amount of money repairing what we have now” on the Southwest border — 600 miles of very intermittent fencing — from damage from erosion, flooding and holes when migrants break through.

Asked to describe the state of border security at a time when Trump supporters decry a massive lack of it, Morgan said, “Everybody has a different perspective on that.” Some will say, of course, that the border is not secure unless you catch everyone who tries to cross illegally.

He acknowledges that it’s very hard to know how large this group is.

“How do you measure something you’re preventing?” he asks. “We’re constantly trying to improve the way we measure this.”