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Border Patrol's Tucson Sector gets a new chief

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents have a new chief, after officials announced Monday that Roy Villareal would take the helm. 

Villareal replaces Rodolfo Karisch, who led the Border Patrol's operations across most of Southern Arizona from August 2017 until this January, when he left to run the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas. 

Villareal has been with the agency for more than 30 years, and has held multiple leadership positions inside the agency, including as the assistant chief patrol agent and acting deputy chief patrol agent for the Yuma Sector, said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Villareal has also served as deputy chief for San Diego and El Centro Sectors, Daniels said. 

Villareal was also "instrumental" in establishing the Border Patrol’s Search, Trauma, and Rescue Team, or BORSTAR, and served as its first commander, said Daniels. 

The Tucson Sector's new chief also served as the coordinator Washington D.C. coordinator for the Border Safety Initiative, an annual bi-national event hosted by different sectors, including Tucson and El Paso Sectors, designed to warn migrants of the dangers of crossing the border. 

Villareal has a master of arts in international relations from the University of San Diego, and a bachelor's degree in political science from California State University San Marcos. He is also a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Senior Executive Fellows Program at Harvard University, and a 2009 graduate of the Command Leadership Academy. 

 "I look forward to working with the men and women of the Tucson Sector and I am confident we will continue to make strides in border security here in Arizona," said Villareal in a statement. "We will face what challenges may come together with our federal, state, local and tribal partners, to build safer border communities and a more secure nation." 

Villareal is the fourth man to lead the Tucson Sector in as many years, after Manuel Padilla Jr. left the sector in late 2015, and headed to the Rio Grande Valley. Padilla was replaced by Paul Beeson, who ran the sector from Jan. 2016 to Aug. 2017 before he was replaced by Karisch. 

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Karisch follows a Tucson Sector tradition of leaving Arizona for Texas, becoming the third chief patrol agent to do so.

Karisch left during the partial shutdown of the federal government, so his transfer was never announced publicly by the agency. 

Instead, while the agency's public affairs office was only announcing a few seizures and apprehensions via Twitter because of the shutdown, Karisch's departure was announced in a Facebook post by Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier. On Jan. 11, Napier wrote that he was saying goodbye to a "dear friend and partner."

The Tucson Sector has more than 3,900 agents and mission support staff, and covers 262 linear miles of border. Up until 2012, the Tucson Sector was the busiest sector in the nation, but in 2013 it fell behind the Rio Grande Valley, which remains the busiest sector in the nation. 

In the last year, shifting demographics in who is coming across the border have driven traffic in the Tucson Sector to fifth place in overall apprehensions, as families and unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, increasingly make up the lion's share of people picked up by BP agents. 

In January, agents in the Rio Grande Valley apprehended more than 17,000 people, followed by El Paso with more than 9,000, Yuma Sector with more than 4,700, and San Diego with 4,122 people. 

Tucson had 4,097 apprehensions, and about one-quarter were either families or unaccompanied minors. In comparison, around 90 percent of apprehensions in Yuma were families or unaccompanied minors. Overall, about 61 percent of apprehensions on the Southwestern border were either families or unaccompanied minors.

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Tucson Sector's new Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal.