Border Patrol's 1st female chief praises the agency's 'heart'

Carla Provost was appointed U.S. Border Patrol chief on Thursday.

Minutes after officially becoming the first woman appointed as chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Carla Provost on Thursday offered a strong defense of the nearly 20,000 agents she is now leading.

“I have served and I continue to serve alongside some of the most amazing men and women in law enforcement,” she said at a press conference announcing her appointment. “We have a remarkable mission in the Border Patrol: to protect our nation and secure our borders. And our men and women do it every day with steadfast dedication, and they do it with heart.”

Her appointment and her remarks come as the Border Patrol faces continued backlash for the separation of more than 2,500 children whose parents or other family members tried to sneak them into the United States in recent months.

At a Senate hearing two weeks ago when she was acting chief, Provost insisted her agency – part of Customs and Border Protection – was simply carrying out what was being demanded of them by the Justice Department’s new “zero tolerance” policy, which she said she didn’t know about until Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced it in April.

“It's our responsibility in CBP to make the apprehensions and turn subjects over to our partners at ICE and/or HHS,” she said, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Health and Human Services.

In June, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on the matter, CBP stopped referring family members for prosecution, which allowed families to stay together, and CBP reunified more than 500 children in their custody with parents, Provost told lawmakers.

On Thursday, Provost called on Congress to “close some of these loopholes that are drawing people to bring their families and their children across a very treacherous trip to come into this country.”

Announcing what he described as a “historic” decision to appoint Provost as chief, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said, “There is simply no one better suited or better prepared to be chief of the United States Border Patrol.”

“Her career has been marked by a tendency to take on the most challenging roles in the most challenging areas of our border and our agency,” he added.

He called her “an agent’s agent,” noting that she started working with the Border Patrol’s bicycle unit back in 1995, and before that she served as a police officer with the Riley County Police Department in Manhattan, Kansas.

After McAleenan’s introduction on Thursday, Provost said she felt both “humbled and proud” by the faith McAleenan has placed in her.

“I couldn’t be prouder to have the opportunity to be the voice for the men and women on the frontlines of the U.S. Border Patrol,” she said. “I want to ensure that we are and that we remain the best trained, the best equipped, and the most professional law enforcement agency in the country. And that we continue to adhere to our core values of integrity, vigilance, service to country as we work to secure the border and to secure the nation.”

She acknowledged that only about five percent of the Border Patrol’s ranks are women, but she predicted that as more women rise through the ranks, more women will look to join the agency.