Juan David Ortiz, an intel supervisor for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), confessed to killing four women in Texas following his arrest last weekend. Ortiz, a nine-year veteran of the agency, had kidnapped a fifth victim, Erika Peña, who got away during a struggle and alerted authorities to his location, later leading to his arrest.
Ortiz’s four victims murdered during the 10-day "serial killing spree” were Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Ann Luera, and a “Jane Doe” who has not yet been identified. A fourth victim was also named a “Jane Doe” by the Texas Tribune, but according to News 4 San Antonio, her name was Janelle Ortiz, and she was a transgender woman. All were believed to be sex workers, who in the U.S. are already vulnerable “to extreme rates of physical, sexual and emotional violence.”
Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz called the Border Patrol supervisor a “serial killer,” but then claimed that “it’s not a reflection of Border Patrol.” But this isn’t the case at all, because “these atrocious murders are not an isolated incident,” said racial justice organization Mijente. “According to Southern Border Communities coalition, Border agents have killed 77 people since 2010, not including these four women. Border patrol and ICE have terrorized communities for decades.”
In April, Border Patrol supervisor Ronald Anthony Burgos Aviles was charged with two counts of capital murder after he “killed a woman with whom he was romantically involved and her 1-year-old child before calling 911 claiming to have discovered the bodies near a park along the border with Mexico,” the AP reported. Just weeks later, also in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Claudia Patricia Gómez González, after claiming the unarmed migrant woman ambushed him. This was a lie, and the circumstances around her killing continue to be shrouded in secrecy.
Supporting Mijente’s statement, court documents and treasury payment records show that the “US government has paid out more than $60m in legal settlements where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, an analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals,” The Guardian reported that same month.
A culture of violence and death plagues federal immigration agencies. Among Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the May 25 death of 33-year-old Roxsana Hernández, a transgender asylum seeker, while in detention has been virtually forgotten. "I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn't," she had said. "They kill trans people in Honduras. I'm scared of that." Hernández fled here for sanctuary. Instead, she lost her life.
Had an undocumented immigrant murdered four people in 10 days and admitted to being a serial killer, the presidential tweets wouldn’t be a matter of if, but instead a matter of how many, how nasty, and how politically craven, despite the fact that immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born Americans to commit crime. Instead, the murders of vulnerable populations by federal immigration agencies continue to go on with no accountability and no answers from the Republican-led Congress.
”These four women,” Mijente continued, “now join a list of countless other people who have been killed simply for being born on one side of an invisible line and risking their lives to transcend it. People across this country know that it does not have to be like this—that another, more compassionate world—is possible … a world that welcomes migrating human beings rather than put them in cages.”