Breaking down barriers for women, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just announced its first-ever female Border Patrol chief, Carla Provost. Provost, who has been serving as its acting head for the last year, is a 23-year veteran of the agency and has repeatedly expressed her support for President Trump's proposed border wall.
Currently, of 20,000 Border Patrol agents, women make up only 5 percent of them — the same proportion as when Provost began her career — making her appointment a significant milestone for gender equity in the department. "When it comes to women obviously there is always more that we can do," she told The New York Times. "I know that I am the first female to lead the agency but I definitely know that I will not be the last one."
Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of CBP, announced Provost's permanent position on Thursday morning. "There is no one more suited to lead the Border Patrol," McAleenan said in a statement released by CBP and available on its website. "She has come up through the ranks, and has earned each new role with hard work, perseverance and her willingness to do whatever the Border Patrol asked of her," he told The Times.
Provost started her career in the Topeka, Kansas Police Department, but moved on to the Border Patrol shortly after, according to an interview she gave to The Los Angeles Times on Thursday. The biggest concern to the agency, she said, is protecting the safety of its agents. "Our agents are facing some of the most challenging environments under the most difficult of circumstances," she said.
Provost argued that allocating resources to Border Patrol ensures the safety of the country as a whole, using rhetoric somewhat reminiscent of President Trump's statements on immigration. "Without the resources, without more agents and without some changes in our abilities to enforce our laws, we will continue to see an increase in drug smuggling, an increase in gang members trying to infiltrate our communities by crossing into our nation illegally, and we will continue to experience increases in the flow of illegal immigrants coming to the United States," she told The Times.
Trump's hardline rhetoric on immigration has Border Patrol agents "feeling empowered to actually enforce the laws that are on the books," she told Fox News in 2017. And while funding for President Trump's border wall campaign promise is still up in the air, Provost says a physical barrier is necessary. "We do need a wall," she told The LA Times. "Through my experiences, we know walls work. Where we invested in a wall system — wall, technology, infrastructure and additional agents — we have experienced significant decreases in illegal border-crossers, and it impeded the flow of illicit drugs."
"I have been in locations where there was no barrier, and then I was there when we put it up," she said, speaking to The Hill on Thursday. "It certainly helps."
Provost seems to view a border wall as part of a needed system of infrastructure that discourages families from crossing the border. And while she claims — like Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — that family separation was "at no time... the policy of the Border Patrol" or DHS, she does believe that Trump's wall, paired with closing legislative "loopholes in our current law that encourages families and children to make the dangerous journey," is the solution.