Randy Clark: Border Patrol Suffers Most Line of Duty Deaths in Agency History

HIDALGO, TEXAS - MARCH 25: A U.S. Border Patrol agent hands out masks to unaccompanied minors after a group of asylum seekers crossed the-Rio Grande into Texas on March 25, 2021 in Hidalgo, Texas. A large group of families and unaccompanied minors, mostly teenagers, came across the border onto private …
John Moore/Getty Images

In addition to the record-breaking year for migrant apprehensions along the southwest border, the Biden Administration can notch another historical claim in 2021 with 11 Border Patrol agents dying in the line of duty. This number eclipses all records dating back to 1919, when the Department of Labor was responsible for immigration matters.

In 1919, Mounted Guard Member Clarence Childress of the Department of Labor’s Immigration Service was shot and killed while patrolling near El Paso, Texas. Although the formal birthday for the Border Patrol is May 28, 1924, when it became an agency under the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Childress, is considered to be the first federal patrol agent killed in the line.

Since the earliest recorded death when Childress was killed in a gunfight with smugglers, the Border Patrol has never suffered as many lines of duty losses as seen in 2021. Of the 11, nine died of COVID-19. The 2021 record eclipses one standing since 1998, when six died.

The combination of a historic migrant surge with a pandemic as the executive branch takes actions to exacerbate the situation has proven deadly.

In some Border Patrol facilities this year, overcrowding exceeded 500 percent of the COVID-19 recommended capacity. The Border Patrol does not turn away detainees at any level. If more arrests are made, more migrants are squeezed into any available space. Agents will be required to process and care for the men, women, and children pushed into those facilities without regard for their own safety.

In other law enforcement circles, detention capacity levels are rigid and seldom breached and never at what was required for Border Patrol.

Agents spend their duty time rescuing migrants from deserts, drowning in the Rio Grande, and the clutches of inhumane smugglers. They have given comfort and care to more than 150,000 unaccompanied migrant children this year.

I had the privilege of working closely with two of the 11 agents. I knew each of them for more than 20 years. All were taken too soon by acts of negligence at the highest levels of government. I feel the same loss for the others that I did not know personally. I know the sacrifice Border Patrol agents willingly make to perform a sometimes-thankless job. That, they all have in common.

In a five-day period in September of this year alone, three agents died of COVID-19 in the performance of duties. The White House has made no public mention of their sacrifices. But President Joe Biden was quick to publicly announce his assumptions that Border Patrol agents were “strapping” migrants on horseback.

Since January, President Biden has failed to apply Title 42 COVID-19 CDC expulsion protocols consistently, choosing instead to self-impose limitations that increased the likelihood of infection to Border Patrol agents in the detention setting. Biden immediately revoked Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA) with Central American countries that allowed for swift return of Central American northern triangle migrants to a safe third country.

Biden ended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that required migrants, most fleeing poverty who will not qualify for relief, to await adjudication of asylum applications in Mexico.

Biden refused to consistently test migrants for COVID-19 in the detention setting and prior to release into communities across the country. Still, as the president issues wide-scale vaccination mandates but none apply to migrants detained or released into the United States.

The Biden Administration should take note that Border Patrol Agents Alfredo M. Ibarra, David B. Ramirez, Luis H. Dominguez, Chad E. McBroom, Ricardo Zarate, Daniel P. Cox, Edgardo Acosta-Feliciano, Juan Manuel Urrutia, Freddie Vasquez, Christopher Shane Simpkins, and Alejandro Flores-Banuelos died honorably under its watch.

Collectively, they served for more than 196 years. They leave behind nine widows, one an expectant mother, 25 children, and one grandchild.

Randy Clark
 is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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