Ex-Obama border chief says Dems are 'trying to abolish ICE with the checkbook'

Mark Morgan, a former U.S. Border Patrol chief under President Obama, on Wednesday told Hill.TV that he thinks Democrats are looking to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “with the checkbook” by limiting the number of detention beds. 

"This is not easy for me to say, because I want to try to stay apolitical, but this issue is fused with politics," Morgan told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball in an appearance on "Rising." 

"From a law enforcement and border security expert, there's only one conclusion that you draw, and that [is] they're really trying to abolish ICE with the checkbook," he continued. "There's no other conclusion that you can draw."

"If you just think about, ICE beds go down, illegal immigration is going up," he said. "That's catch and release 2.0." 

"We already have family units, unaccompanied minors, that 95 percent of them, as soon as they touch foot on [U.S.] soil, they're being released into the United States. I call that catch and release 1.0. By removing detention beds, you're going to force ICE to release a new category of illegal immigrants," he said. 

Negotiations to reach a deal to keep the government open past a deadline at the end of this week hit a snag over the issue of ICE detention beds. 

Democratic lawmakers wanted to impose a cap on the number of beds ICE can use, saying fewer beds will force the agency to focus on detaining immigrants who pose a higher security risk. 

A tentative deal reached by Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Monday would include a 22 percent reduction in the detention beds. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE has not indicated whether he will sign that deal.

The president on Monday said that reducing the number of detention beds would cut “loose dangerous criminals into our countries.”

— Julia Manchester