/ Modified nov 16, 2021 11:27 a.m.

Border Patrol line-of-duty deaths are up sharply during the pandemic

A spokesperson said all Border Patrol deaths from COVID-19 are considered line of duty deaths.

Nogales Border Patrol Station gate hero The gate at the Nogales Border Patrol Station, February 2017.
Nick O'Gara/AZPM

This month U.S. Border Patrol officials said an agent in the Tucson sector had died in what was described as a line-of-duty death. It's the latest in a long line of similar deaths among Customs and Border Protection personnel since the pandemic began.

On Twitter, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Agent Anibal Tony Perez died in the line of duty on Nov. 5. His message was echoed by CBP personnel in Arizona and in Washington, D.C., Gov. Doug Ducey also ordered flags at half mast to honor Perez.

Citing unnamed sources, some outlets said Perez died of COVID-19 complications. But the agency has provided few details about the death. Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent turned agency whistleblower, says normally, line of duty deaths are reported extensively by the agency.

"You’re suggesting that this agent died in the line of duty, but you’re not going to tell us why," she said. "I mean, when you’re in uniform and they die in the line of duty, that should be public information of how and why that occurred."

Before 2020, CBP listed around 2-4 line of duty deaths among personnel each year, according to a count on the agency's website. Perez’s death marks the 50th since the onset of the pandemic. Many do not list details about the cause of death.

A spokesperson said all Border Patrol deaths from COVID-19 are considered line of duty deaths under the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act of 2020. He declined to confirm Perez's cause of death, citing privacy concerns.

According to the agency's website, 51 CBP personnel have died from COVID-19 and almost 12,000 have contracted the virus nationwide.

Fronteras Desk
Fronteras Desk is a KJZZ project covering important stories in an expanse stretching from Northern Arizona deep into northwestern Mexico.
By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona