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Tucson Border Patrol chief leaving for Texas
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Tucson Border Patrol chief leaving for Texas

  • Padilla in a 2013 photo.
    CBPPadilla in a 2013 photo.

The head of the Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector, Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla, will take on the role of head BP agent in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, officials said Monday.

"Manny" Padilla, with nearly three decades with the Border Patrol, has been the top BP agent in the sector since October 2012, and was promoted from an acting post in April 2013.

The Southern Arizona native has been in charge of the 4,400 BP staff assigned to the eight Border Patrol stations along about 260 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

He may face significant challenges by moving to the job in the Rio Grande Valley. While the Tucson Sector is larger than the sector in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley has a longer, complex border that includes 320 river miles and 250 coastal miles to patrol.

Padilla is taking the job just as the Rio Grande Valley becomes the central crossing point for both Mexicans and an increasing number of Central Americans. 

When Padilla was promoted in Tucson in 2013, the number of apprehensions in the Tucson Sector had been declining for nine years, falling from a peak of around 491,000 in 2004 to 120,939 in 2013. 

However, traffic in the Rio Grande Valley has nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, and most of the change is driven by the influx of unaccompanied minors and family units from Central America. While the number of children coming across the southwest border has declined this year, the Rio Grande continues to be a central crossing point. 

Nearly 60 percent of the unaccompanied minors who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border come through the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

Padilla was picked as the Tucson Sector's deputy chief patrol agent in November 2011.

Padilla began his Border Patrol career in August 1986. His first duty assignment was at the Sierra Blanca Station in the Big Bend Sector, known then as the Marfa Sector, in Texas. He became a member of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) in August 1990, eventually providing instruction on tactical procedures to police forces in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Before coming to Tucson, Padilla served as the chief patrol agent for the New Orleans Sector. Prior to joining the Border Patrol, he served in the U.S. Army for two years.

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