Jason Owens, the current head of the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector in Texas, was announced as the new agency chief by the Biden administration on Friday. Owens will assume the position after the current chief, Raul Ortiz, steps down at the end of the month. This will make Owens the third person to lead the Border Patrol under President Biden, indicating a relatively high turnover rate.
Ortiz’s decision to depart came after the expiration of Title 42, a border measure implemented during the pandemic that allowed Border Patrol agents to expel apprehended migrants back to Mexico swiftly. While crossings have unexpectedly decreased since the policy’s expiration, the administration anticipates that the situation may change if human smugglers, who control a significant portion of the migration flow, become more aware of the administration’s new restrictive policies.
Along with assuming the role of chief, Owens will also oversee Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency. This comes as the agency investigates the tragic death of an 8-year-old girl from Panama at a Border Patrol station in South Texas, marking the first such fatality in four years. Preliminary findings from the investigation reveal that the girl’s mother repeatedly requested an ambulance as her daughter’s fever spiked and she experienced breathing difficulties.
Owens, a 25-year veteran of the Border Patrol, previously led the Del Rio sector during the devastating shooting at an elementary school in nearby Uvalde, Texas. During the incident, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, Border Patrol agents confronted and neutralized the shooter, bringing an end to the rampage. Reflecting on the tragedy, Owens expressed the deep connection between the agents and the community, stating, “Uvalde is their home. We had agents that were responding to this incident, knowing their child was unaccounted for.”
Before his current appointment, Owens assumed his position after a significant event involving thousands of Haitians attempting to cross the border near Del Rio. The migrants were corralled under a border bridge for processing over several days.
Owens has an extensive background in the Border Patrol, having served as a sector chief on the northern border in Houlton, Maine, as well as the chief of the Border Patrol academy.
Alongside Owens, the Biden administration is also promoting Pete Flores, the head of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, to the position of CBP’s new acting deputy commissioner. In the wake of Chris Magnus’ departure at the end of last year, Troy Miller is serving in an acting capacity as the agency’s commissioner.