White House Considering Obama-Era Official for Immigration Job, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- The White House is considering an Obama-era Border Patrol chief to take over as head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a key role in an administration seeking to crack down on migrants crossing the southern border, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mark Morgan, the candidate for ICE, led the Border Patrol in the final months of President Barack Obama’s administration and was removed from the position after President Donald Trump assumed the presidency. Morgan, a former FBI agent, supported a border wall, one of Trump’s signature campaign issues.

Trump’s former acting director of ICE, Ronald Vitiello, quit this month after the president told reporters that he was pulling his nomination for the director’s job because he wanted to go in a “different direction” with someone “tougher.”

Trump has strongly indicated that he would make the issues of illegal immigration and border security a centerpiece of his 2020 election campaign. Apprehensions at the southern border have surged despite his administration’s stricter immigration policies, and earlier this month he pushed out Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top immigration officials.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on consideration of Morgan. Two White House aides said there isn’t any urgency to replace ICE’s Acting Director Matthew Albence. Morgan is well liked, but Albence is doing a good job, one of the aides said.

The aides and the people familiar with Morgan’s consideration for the post asked not to be identified because Trump hasn’t made a decision about the job.

Trump has ordered his administration to propose regulations that would impose fees on migrants applying for asylum and speed up the application process. In a presidential memorandum released on Monday night, Trump said “the security and humanitarian crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border “undermines our nation’s security and sovereignty.”

In another personnel matter, Trump’s Homeland Security adviser Doug Fears is leaving the White House in July and returning to the Coast Guard, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday. Fears, a rear admiral in the Coast Guard, was on a one-year assignment to the White House that was extended to two years when he replaced Tom Bossert as Trump’s Homeland Security adviser. Bossert departed after Bolton arrived in 2018.

Rear Admiral Peter Brown, who serves as commander of Coast Guard’s district headquartered in Miami, will take over Fears’s job.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.