DHS, CBP press conference

Department of Homeland Security acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a press conference at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where he praised the president’s “relentless leadership and drive.”

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Two high-ranking border officials came to Tucson on Monday to tout President Trump’s border policies and to berate Twitter for locking one of them out of their account last week.

Monday’s news conference was the latest in a string of recent visits by Trump administration officials to Arizona, which could become a key swing state in the presidential election. Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited Arizona in recent weeks, as did Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris also visited Arizona recently.

Mark Morgan, the senior official performing the duties of commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, and Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, flew over the border area south of Tucson in a helicopter before landing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base late Monday morning to speak to reporters.

Both officials were effusive in their praise of President Trump’s border policies, particularly the construction of roughly 400 miles of 30-foot-tall border wall and the sharp drop in border apprehensions since last year when hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cuccinelli cited “unprecedented achievements” by the administration, which “put its promises into action.” He praised Trump’s “relentless leadership and drive.”

Among those achievements was the seizure of more hard drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, in the last four years than in the previous eight years.

The administration “took bold action” to address the crisis at the border last year and listened to what Border Patrol agents said they needed at the border, Morgan said.

“To me, as acting commissioner, this is very much an apolitical statement when I say that this president listened and this president delivered. That’s just a fact,” Morgan said.

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Neither official seemed concerned about the propriety of DHS officials making what could be seen as a campaign stop for President Trump hours before the polls open.

When asked why the officials came to Tucson the day before the presidential election and whether the visit could be viewed as an effort to sway voters, Cuccinelli said he hadn’t been to the Arizona border yet and the state was “on the cycle to do.”

“We don’t stop doing our job because there’s an election coming or going and this is part of that whole effort,” Cuccinelli said.

The second focus of Monday’s news conference was a tweet posted by Morgan on Oct. 28, which prompted Twitter moderators to take it down and lock Morgan out of his account for about 20 hours.

Morgan’s Oct. 28 tweet said that CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers “continue to build new wall every day. Every mile helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It’s a fact, walls work.”

In response to Twitter blocking Morgan’s account, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf wrote a letter to Twitter executives.

Twitter moderators emailed Morgan, saying, “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease,” Wolf wrote in the letter.

“There was no reason to remove Mr. Morgan’s tweet from your platform, other than ideological disagreement with the speaker,” Wolf wrote. “Such censorship is disturbing.”

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar

This article originally ran on tucson.com.


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