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Biden names a Border Patrol veteran in Texas to be the agency's next chief

Venezuelan migrants board a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle after crossing the Rio Grande River on May 18, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas.
John Moore
/
Getty Images
Venezuelan migrants board a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle after crossing the Rio Grande River on May 18, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas.

The Biden administration is tapping Jason Owens, a 27-year veteran of the Border Patrol, to be the agency's next chief.

Owens currently leads the Border Patrol's sector in Del Rio, Texas, which has emerged in recent years as one of the busiest parts of the border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called Owens a "talented, selfless, and inspiring leader" in a statement announcing the move. "I have worked with Chief Owens; I am inspired by his commitment to the mission, and am grateful to him for his continued service in this new leadership role," Mayorkas said.

Owens will take over when the current Border Patrol chief, Raul Ortiz, steps down at the end of the month.

Ortiz announced his retirement after the end of Title 42, the pandemic border restrictions that expired last month. The number of border apprehensions has dropped sharply since then, though the Biden administration warns that those declines could be temporary.

Owens will be the third chief to lead the Border Patrol and its workforce of roughly 19,000 agents under Biden, and the 26th overall.

Owens took over as head of the Del Rio sector in late 2021, a few months after thousands of migrants, largely from Haiti, attempted to cross the border into Del Rio and found themselves confined in a camp on the banks of the Rio Grande.

He previously served as sector chief in Maine, and also led the Border Patrol academy in New Mexico.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.