President Biden on Friday named a new border guard chief as US immigration policy comes under renewed scrutiny after the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction that allowed authorities to deport most migrants for more than three years.
Jason Owens, who served in the Border Patrol for more than 20 years, was most recently the leader of Texas’ Del Rio Division, which handles one of the busiest areas for illegal crossings. He succeeds Raul Ortiz, who retires at the end of the month after serving in the Border Patrol for 32 years.
Mr. Owens takes over at a time when illegal crossings have declined. While numbers have fallen in the weeks since Title 42 was lifted in May, officials expect crossings to rise again this summer as thousands of migrants make their way across South and Central America with plans to return to the United States. to go.
As head of the Del Rio division, Mr. Owens spends much of his time preparing and responding to this kind of influx. He will also face legal challenges to the Biden administration’s new border policy, which is designed to deter people from entering the United States illegally.
The Biden administration has said the court challenges could undermine its efforts to crack down on border crossings. During the Biden administration, there were record levels of illegal migration on the southern border, sometimes overwhelming resources, and Republican attacks suggesting the president’s weakness on border security.
In a statement on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas described Mr. Owens as “talented” and “selfless”.
“I am inspired by his dedication to the mission and am grateful for his continued commitment to this new leadership role,” said Mr. Mayorkas.
The Border Patrol is a 99-year service tasked with securing the country’s borders with Canada and Mexico. Democrats have long pushed for more transparency from the Border Patrol and its parent company, Customs and Border Protection.
The Border Patrol Union, which largely represents pro-Republican backers, is a strong supporter of former President Donald J. Trump and has attacked the Biden administration for ending some of Mr. Trump’s border policies.
Mr Owens’ tenure in Del Rio began after a peak in migration there in 2021, when mostly Haitian migrants who had entered the United States illegally overwhelmed resources at the border. The response, which included officers on horses, was widely criticized after footage went viral of what appeared to be a cop using his lariat as a whip.
An internal investigation found Border Police officers used “unnecessary” force but found no evidence to support allegations by migrants and others that officers used horse bridles to whip migrants.
Still, the incident, in which 15,000 migrants crossed in the space of a few days, has remained a low point for Biden’s tenure. It was also a reminder of the criticism the Border Patrol has faced over the years for its treatment of migrants.