Sharing information about the work of the Border Patrol as it manages its border security mission is one of the top priorities of the Del Rio Sector’s new chief patrol agent.
Raul L. Ortiz, the new chief patrol agent for the Del Rio Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, will host a “State of the Border” address from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday in the Pecan Room at the Del Rio Civic Center, 1915 Veterans Blvd. The event is free and open to the public, and doors open at 9 a.m.
“Typically, in the Border Patrol, when a new chief takes office in a sector, there is what is called a change of command ceremony. What I proposed, instead of having a change of command ceremony, was a ‘State of the Border’ address that would allow me to tell the community a little bit more about myself and what I bring to the sector, what our priorities are going to be for the sector and talk a little bit about what’s happening right now,” Ortiz said Thursday in an interview at the agency’s sector headquarters.
Ortiz, who assumed his duties here in April, said the sharp increases in the number of apprehensions being made by Border Patrol agents need to be discussed.
“When you look at the current situation, Del Rio Sector is about number three in the level of apprehensions that we’re making right now. We’re number two in the number of people we are holding in our detention within the country. That’s out of 20 sectors, and so when you lead the nation in these categories, I think that there’s an important story that needs to be told,” Ortiz said.
“I think it’s important that the community understands the great work the men and women are doing out there, not just from the Border Patrol perspective, but we have people from DHS (Department of Homeland Security), the federal air marshals, Office of Field Operations, which are Customs officers that work at the ports of entry that are coming down here. We are bringing in people from the northern border. We’ve got DoD (Department of Defense) military assets here, so all of these entities have joined us to support this humanitarian crisis and allow us to do our border security mission,” the chief added.
Ortiz said he also wants to speak about the many community and stakeholder partnerships in the sector.
“This isn’t just the Border Patrol managing this crisis. This is a whole of government, and I want to be able to explain to the community what’s happening right now and what I expect to happen over the next course of this fiscal year and to the calendar year,” Ortiz said.
The chief said another topic he wants to address are the challenges the Border Patrol will be facing in the immediate future.
“You can’t talk about border security without having the discussion about resources, whether it’s personnel, whether it’s infrastructure, which includes fencing and roads and technology, and so all of those things factor into our operational plan of how we’re going to manage this.
“We will have a discussion about what we anticipate arriving within the sector and what that’s going to look like, knowing that a supplemental was just passed to assist us in the humanitarian crisis, which will provide additional resources for us in the form of medical contracts, food contracts, wraparound services for the folks that we have in our custody, (and) which will ultimately allow me to get more agents out on the front lines because that is my number one priority, is the border security mission,” Ortiz said.
The Border Patrol chief said he will open the floor for questions from the audience after his talk.
“We propose that we will have an opportunity to showcase, once again, the great work that’s happening out there, and then we’re going to allow the community to ask some questions, specifically about what they’ve heard or about what they hear, even at the national level.
“I will also provide a description of what’s happening at the national level, because what happens in south Texas, what happens in California and Arizona and some of the other sectors affects us. What’s happening south of us, in Mexico, what’s happening in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and even into Panama, because of the African nationals and the Haitian nationals that are traveling through Ecuador and some of the other countries into Panama ultimately to our back yard, our doorstep, affects us. I want to be able to explain how that happens, why it’s happening and what we’re doing to manage that,” Ortiz said.
The chief re-iterated the event is free and open to the community and added he would like to see as many people at the event as possible.
“I think quite often we get snippets or small sound bites about what’s actually occurring on the border, and the border communities need to be more informed than anyone else out there because we are probably the single point of the spear that is most affected. I want to be able to be as transparent as we can as an organization. I don’t want anyone to wonder what’s happening. I want us to get information out quickly about what is happening.
“I’ve already seen, right after I arrived, when we started releasing family units, that there was a knee-jerk reaction, and that there were some folks, because of social media, got really excited about what was happening out there. Had I done a better job of communicating what our intent was and why we were doing things, that probably wouldn’t have happened, and so my promise to the community is to be as transparent as I possibly can be as an organization and ensure that they are informed. That is the number one goal. This is our initial platform, and we’re going to try and continue that throughout our tenure here,” Ortiz said.