Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz will retire at the end of June. Ortiz made the announcement to his staff in an email Tuesday night.  

“After a 32-year Border Patrol career spanning multiple sectors, HQ tours, and overseas assignments in Afghanistan, I have decided to retire from federal service on June 30th,” Ortiz wrote. “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.” 

Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told The Daily Signal that while he might have “fundamental disagreements concerning how Chief Ortiz approached his position while serving under the Biden administration and believe his reputation will be tarnished for his role in allowing Horse Patrol agents to be publicly disgraced based on known false allegations, I respect his three decades of service to our nation and the accompanying sacrifices he made along the way.”  

Morgan added that he wishes Ortiz “well in his next chapter of life.” 

Ortiz served as the deputy chief of Border Patrol under Chief Rodney Scott for a little more than a year before Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tapped Ortiz to be chief following Scott’s departure. Ortiz has been chief for almost two years.  

Ortiz was serving as chief in September 2021 when Border Patrol agents on horseback were falsely accused of “whipping” would-be illegal immigrants at the southern border. The agents were using the reins to control their horses, but some media outlets misconstrued the photographs and video of the incident.  

While Paul Ratje—the photographer who took the pictures, which went viral—said that he witnessed no whipping, the White House called the images “horrific,” and President Joe Biden said the agents’ actions were “outrageous,” adding that there would “be consequences.”  

But emails obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project and released publicly in January revealed that “Mayorkas knew mounted Border Patrol agents were innocent of the ‘whipping’ charge,” but nonetheless continued to politicize the incident, according to the think tank. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)  

Ortiz defended his agents on horseback after the incident, saying they “play an integral part in the security response” at the southern border. He also defended his agents in emails sent between himself and Biden administration officials.  

“This horse business is awfully negative, but there are great efforts occurring, and we aren’t highlighting any of them,” Ortiz wrote in an email obtained by The Heritage Foundation.  

“Our agents are being assaulted, and we aren’t saying a word,” Ortiz continued. “The bus contractors and pilots are dealing with Haitians escaping or trying to overrun drivers and we stay quiet. Agents and pro staff are working 14-hour days in difficult conditions, nothing said. We have to change the narrative or these stories will be the only story.”  

But Morgan and Tom Homan, former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director, say Ortiz missed an opportunity to boldly defend his agents publicly.  

“Although CBP leadership, including Chief Ortiz, are operating under challenging circumstances, there are defining moments as leaders which require extraordinary action and courage. The false ‘whipping’ allegations were just such a moment,” Morgan and Homan said in a joint statement in January with the release of the emails Heritage obtained. “But rather than publicly defend the agents by providing the truth after realizing their internal attempts to do so had failed, they acquiesced to the political officials and bureaucrats who ruthlessly pushed a false narrative.” 

Following Ortiz’s retirement announcement, Mayorkas issued a statement praising Ortiz for his dedication to Border Patrol.  

“Chief Ortiz has been a great leader of the men and women of the United States Border Patrol for the past two years, and at every level of the organization throughout his three decades of service,” Mayorkas said, going on to praise Ortiz for his leadership:  

He embodies the core values of vigilance, service to country, and integrity, as well as the Border Patrol’s motto: honor first. His steady leadership and operational expertise have greatly benefited the agency, the Department, and the nation—and will continue to influence the Border Patrol well into the future.  

Ortiz’s departure comes amid record encounters of illegal aliens at the southern border under the Biden administration, and shortly after Title 42’s expiration on May 11. Border Patrol used Title 42, a public health measure set in place under the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, to quickly expel some illegal aliens from the country. Concerns remain that illegal immigration will increase over the summer without the deterrence Title 42 created.  

Since the start of the Biden administration, Customs and Border Protection reports encountering more than 5.5 million illegal aliens at the southern border. Since fiscal year 2023 began on Oct. 1, CBP has encountered more than 1.4 million illegal aliens, about triple the number encountered at the southern border during fiscal year 2020.

In March, Ortiz testified before the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing in McAllen, Texas. Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., questioned Ortiz as to whether the Department of Homeland Security has “operational control of our entire border.”  

 “No, sir,” Ortiz responded.   

It is unclear who will take over for Ortiz, but the chief says he leaves “at ease, knowing we have a tremendous uniformed and professional workforce, strong relationships with our union partners, and outstanding leaders who will continue to tirelessly advocate for you each day.” 

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