Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz will retire at the end of next month, leaving the agency after overseeing the most chaotic border in modern American history.
Homeland Security announced the retirement Tuesday night, after news reports revealed the move.
“Border Patrol is stronger and our nation is safer, thanks to his leadership. I will miss his candor, our thought partnership and our friendship,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
In an email to fellow agents, the chief said he would retire on June 30. The email was reported by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
He is the second leader to serve during President Biden’s term. The first, Rodney Scott, was deported in 2021 as he resisted the new president’s capture-and-release border policies.
Mr Mayorkas said Chief Ortiz, who was deputy chief at the time, was also planning to retire around this time, but the secretary said he convinced him to stay.
“Chief Ortiz has agreed to postpone his retirement several times since and Border Patrol, the department and our country have only benefited the better,” Mayorkas said.
Numbers at the border under Chief Ortiz have been grim, hitting all-time highs of 10,000 migrants captured several days earlier this month.
The numbers have improved since then, but still average above 3,000 a day.
Meanwhile, the Border Patrol faced a series of problems under Chief Ortiz’s watch, including a high number of officer suicides and a record number of migrant deaths.
In September 2021, Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Mr. Mayorkas suggested mounted officers whipped Haitian migrants trying to cross the border into Texas. Ms Harris suggested it evoked days of whipping slaves.
A long investigation, however, would prove that no one was flogged.
More recently, Chief Ortiz created a “conditional release” policy to catch and release migrants in a new wave earlier this month. A federal judge blocked the policy, saying it violated immigration law.
Chief Ortiz has also been caught in the crossfire between Mr. Mayorkas and Republicans on Capitol Hill over border strength.
Mr. Mayorkas called the border secure, but Chief Ortiz, in his own testimony before lawmakers, disputed that idea, saying in testimony in March that five of the nine sectors along the southern border were not not secure.
But alongside Mr Mayorkas in Texas earlier this month, he reanalyzed his words to try to make the case that he and the secretary were in sync.
“I have been doing this job for 32 years. We never had operational control,” Chief Ortiz said.