On February 4, James Paul Markowitz, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen, died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Texas. The exact circumstances around the detention and death of Markowitz are still unclear at this time.
Here’s what we know about James Paul Markowitz:
1. U.S. CBP Announced Markowitz’s Death in a Statement on February 5
The U.S. CBP issued a statement on its website on February 5 explaining the situation.
The statement reads that CBP officers arrested an individual named James Paul Markowitz at 3:30 p.m. on February 4. The 32-year-old’s arrest came after officers identified him as a suspect in an “alien smuggling case.” Markowitz began showing “signs of distress” during processing at Bracketville Station.
The statement explains that EMT-certified CBP agents gave Markowitz first aid at that time, then he was brought to a local hospital in an ambulance. The statement concludes: “He was pronounced deceased by medical personnel at 9:37 p.m.”
2. The Cause of Death Remains Unclear
There is no further information at this time about the cause of death, and if an autopsy has been scheduled. There is also no information given about the individual’s family and if a next-of-kin has been notified.
The statement simply indicated that the subject had signs of distress. There were no mentions of pre-existing conditions or factors.
3. Another CBP Statement Alludes to the Arrest of a 32-Year-Old the Same Day
CBP issued another statement on February 5 about an arrest on February 4. This statement indicates that CBP agents were involved in a vehicle pursuit that led to the arrest of two U.S. citizens and five illegal aliens.
The statement says that CBP officials out of Bracketville Station attempted to stop two vehicles, a 2019 Dodge Charger and 2016 Jeep Renegade. According to CBP, the driver of the Jeep Renegade was a 25-year-old U.S. citizen, and the driver of the Dodge Charger was a 32-year-old U.S. citizen. These two U.S. citizens, along with the passengers, four Ecuadorians and one Salvadoran, were brought to Bracketville Station for processing.
The statement does not provide the names of the two U.S. citizens, and CBP has not confirmed if the driver of the 2019 Dodge Charger was James Paul Markowitz.
The Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul L. Ortiz said in the same statement: “Smugglers continue to endanger the lives of those in our communities without hesitation. Thanks to the excellent communication and cooperation between our agents and law enforcement partners, the pursuit ended safely with no injuries to the community or law enforcement.”
4. CBP Has the Authority to Arrest U.S. Citizens
It’s far more common for CBP to detain non-U.S. citizens, but they do have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens if they have cause to believe they are smuggling immigrants who have entered the country illegally, as reports 570 News. They state: “Those arrested can be charged with a felony in federal court.”
In this case, CBP did not indicate what circumstances led to Markowitz’s arrest beyond the fact that he was considered a suspect in an “alien smuggling case.” They also did not state if he had yet been formally charged with anything.
5. Others Have Died in CBP Custody in Recent Years
CBP agency received a lot of attention in the past couple of years over other deaths that occurred in custody. In May 2019, CNN reported that a fifth child had died in U.S. CBP custody after traveling to the U.S. from Guatemala. Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala, died in custody a few days after crossing into the U.S.
Following the death of a 7-year-old child in CBP custody in December 2018, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general said in a press release that an investigation had taken place and “found no misconduct or malfeasance” by officials.