The acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection defended the decision to conduct a recording-breaking operation, and he made clear that his agency’s crackdown of illegal immigration is not solely focused on violent criminals.
“You and the president said just a few weeks ago that the pending ICE raids coming down the pipe were going to be focused on violent criminals. That’s not what happened here in Mississippi. Why not?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked CBP acting chief Mark Morgan on Sunday, referring to government’s Wednesday arrest of 680 suspected illegal immigrants.
Morgan, however, said he never made those comments.
“First of all, I never said that the raids — as you call — were focused on violent criminals. I’ve never said that,” the acting commissioner responded. “I think words matter. These aren’t raids. These are targeted law enforcement operations, and in this case, this was a joint criminal investigation with ICE and the Department of Justice targeting worksite enforcement.”
Tapper — attempting to correct his earlier misquote — then repeated Morgan’s line verbatim, where the acting commissioner had said his agency would “go after those that are criminal aliens, meaning those people that are here illegally and have committed additional crimes.”
The quote, however, still needed clarification from Morgan.
“That was my response to a question about priorities, and ICE’s priorities will always be to go after criminal aliens as a priority. That doesn’t mean they exclude all demographics,” Morgan said. “We still have to apply consequences, meaning enforce the rule of law, for those individuals that are here illegally against immigration law.”
The back-and-forth pertained to a massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid Wednesday against seven food processing facilities across Mississippi. ICE agents ultimately nabbed 680 individuals believed to be living and working in the country illegally — the largest single-state raid in recent U.S. history.
While the administration acted within the law, footage of a crying 11-year-old girl asking for her father to be returned has been widely circulated throughout the media, generating criticism of the large-scale operation.
“I know it’s emotional. I know it’s done on purpose to show a picture like that,” Morgan said of the clip.
He noted that employment of illegal aliens is not a victimless crime, and typically accompanies social security and other identity fraud.
“Her father committed a crime, and just so the American people know also is that girl — her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night.”
A version of this story appears on the Daily Caller website.