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Trump-era Border Patrol chief pushed out by Biden admin

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Trump-era Border Patrol chief pushed out by Biden admin

  • Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott during a press conference in Tucson in October 2020. Scott announced he was leaving the agency on Wednesday.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comBorder Patrol Chief Rodney Scott during a press conference in Tucson in October 2020. Scott announced he was leaving the agency on Wednesday.

The Biden administration has pushed out the chief of the Border Patrol, Rodney Scott, telling a long-term proponent of the border wall, and one of a few remaining Trump-era appointees, to leave the agency.

First reported by the Washington Post, Scott's departure clears the way for a new Biden administration appointee to lead the Border Patrol as the agency strains to deal with a significant influx in the number of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Since April 2020, the number of people encountered by BP agents has rapidly increased to a 20-year-high, escalated by the Trump-era use of a public health order—known as Title 42—that allows agents to rapidly deport people if they have traveled through a country with COVID-19 cases. 

Scott wrote on his personal Facebook page that he was leaving the agency after he received a letter giving him the option to resign, retire, or relocate. As, Scott described the letter, it was a pro forma notice, "so the new administration can place the person they want  in the position," the Post reported.

Scott said that he would remain in his position for 60 more days. Raul Ortiz, currently serving as the deputy chief, will likely replace Scott on an interim basis. 

Neither the White House or Customs and Border Protection responded to questions about Scott's departure.

Border agencies respond to increase in migrants at SW border

Scott's departure comes as agency strains to deal with record encounters as agents find themselves taking into custody both large numbers of unaccompanied minors, and families traveling with children, as well as single adults. Accelerated by Title 42, and the use of "metering" at U.S. ports, the number of encounters has spiked to a 20-year high. 

Data from CBP released earlier this month shows that migrants were stopped 180,034 times across the southwestern border in May, and the majority were single adults who were immediately expelled from the United States under Title 42.

CBP said that agents immediately expelled 112,302 people under Title 42, and that the "large number of expulsions during the pandemic has contributed to a larger-than-usual number of non-citizens making multiple border crossing attempts." Of the roughly 180,000 people encountered by CBP officials, 38 percent in May were people who "had at least one prior encounter" in the previous 12 months, CBP said in a news release.

This was significantly higher than previous years, when the average "re-encounter" rate—previously classified as a recidivism rate—was around 15 percent from 2014 to 2019, CBP said. Troy Miller, the acting commissioner for CBP, said in February that while more than 100,000 people were apprehended, this represented about 75,000 "unique individuals."

Scott is one of a few remaining leadership holdouts brought in during the Trump administration at the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, the Senate confirmed Alejandro N. Mayorkas as the Homeland Security secretary, and the Biden administration has nominated Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection as the commissioner of Border Patrol's parent agency. 

Magnus has yet to have a confirmation hearing, leaving Troy Miller in place as the acting commissioner since January. 

Unlike other leadership positions at DHS, which endured a constant churn of new appointments, Scott was just one of two people to be in charge of Border Patrol during the Trump administration. Scott assumed command of the Border Patrol in February 2020 after Trump's first Border Patrol chief, Carla Provost, left the agency a month earlier. 

Scott long supported the construction of border barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, often defending their emplacement even in environmentally sensitive areas in Arizona's border with Mexico. During a press conference in October 2020, Scott argued that the 30-foot high steel and concrete emplacements were akin to the front door of a private home, and he also argued that such efforts could help the environment, noting that in the San Diego Sector, border barriers helped protect an estuary in the region.

This may have put Scott at loggerheads with the Biden administration, which has shut down further construction of the border wall, and earlier this month, moved to return billions siphoned from Defense Department construction projects back to the Pentagon. 

Raised in Nogales, Scott spent more than 29 years at Border Patrol, rising through the ranks largely in San Diego Sector, before he became the acting deputy chief in 2019. When Scott was promoted to chief, Mark Morgan, then the acting commissioner of Border Patrol's parent agency U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that Scott brought "an exceptional depth and breadth of experience" to the position.

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