Raul Ortiz, the chief of the United States Border Patrol, announced his intention to step down from his position on June 30. Ortiz sent an agency-wide email earlier this week informing the almost 20,000 Border Patrol agents who are currently on duty of his plans. In the Border Patrol's 99-year history, Ortiz oversaw the organization during the two busiest years for migrant encounters along the southwest border.
Ortiz stated in a message delivered to Border Patrol agents on the ground on Tuesday, “After a 32-year career spanning multiple Sectors, HQ tours, and overseas assignments in Afghanistan, I have decided to retire from Federal Service on June 30. I have proudly served in the Armed Forces and across this country and enjoyed every opportunity I have had to work for and on behalf of the American people.”
In August 2021, Ortiz took over as head of the Border Patrol after Chief Rodney Scott retired. Around 1.7 million migrant interactions were reported by the Border Patrol during the fiscal year that concluded shortly after Ortiz took over. During the following year, migrant apprehensions rose to 2.3 million migrant encounters making it the busiest year for migrant apprehensions in the agency’s history. On May 28, the Border Patrol marked its 99-year anniversary.
Since the start of the current fiscal year in October 2022, the Border Patrol has reported more than 1.4 million interactions with migrants along the southwest border. The yearly total for this fiscal year will probably be equal to or higher than that of FY22, according to the rate of migrant arrests in 2023. Ortiz will leave the organization less than two months following the changeover from the usual Title 8 immigration authority to the Trump administration Title 42 CDC COVID-19 migrant deportation authority.
The largest single mass migration event along the southwest border in American history occurred in September 2021, just after Ortiz assumed the role of agency chief, and it entered his hometown of Del Rio, Texas. Over 30,000 largely Haitian migrants arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande close to the little border city over the course of several weeks. To escape the oppressive Texas heat, the mainly Haitian migrants built flimsy buildings in what looked like a shanty town beneath the Del Rio International Bridge.
Without significant federal assistance, local elected officials, law enforcement, and Border Patrol agents were left to handle the issue on their own for more than two weeks. As soon as Ortiz and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrived, the border was closed to legitimate cross-border traffic for nearly a week while the federal government moved the migrants to processing facilities along the entire southwest border. These ports of entry were used by legal migrants and American citizens to access the neighboring border town of Acuna, Mexico.
In a hurriedly organized press conference held adjacent to the camp, Mayorkas told reporters that the border was closed. Moreover, Mayorkas told reporters that the “volume was rather sudden, rather dramatic, rather quick” and that he was astonished by the surge of refugees.
Also, Ortiz promised that the migrants living in the camp will be expelled from the country for entering it illegally. After the event, 2,000 Haitian migrants were sent back to their country, but more than 12,000 of them who had been camping under the Del Rio International Bridge were later allowed to enter the country to apply for asylum.
Significant jumps in migrant entry plagued several border cities in the months that followed Ortiz's term, forcing Republican governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis to bus migrants to sanctuary cities far from the border. Migrants' presence in major cities like New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, and others sparked a response that still shapes the national conversation over immigration.