Carla Provost officially named first woman to lead Border Patrol

Calling it a "historic" announcement, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan introduced her saying, "Carla is an agent's agent" and that he and the secretary have "unwavering confidence" in her ability to lead the agency.

SAN DIEGO — US Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday that acting US Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost will be dropping the “acting” and officially named chief of Border Patrol — the first woman to hold the position.

Calling it a “historic” announcement, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan introduced Provost at a news conference Thursday saying, “Carla is an agent’s agent” and that he and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have “unwavering confidence” in her ability to lead the agency.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to be both humbled and proud at the same time, but those are certainly the emotions I’m feeling,” Provost said.

Reflecting on the historic nature of her appointment, the more than 20-year veteran of Border Patrol noted that “many women … paved the way” for her appointment.

“I can guarantee you this, I may be the first female chief of the Border Patrol, but I am certain I will not be the last,” Provost said.

She also said Border Patrol has the lowest rate of women serving in all of federal law enforcement, at roughly 5% throughout her time at the agency. She said she intends to improve recruitment of women at Border Patrol, which has historically struggled with both attracting applicants and retaining them.

“I can tell you, we are seeing many more women rise through the ranks and into senior positions and I believe this will help with the recruitment,” she said, adding that the agency is also doing targeted recruitment to attract more women. “The Border Patrol’s difficult, we work in remote locations … the work is dangerous and you’re working alone at night a lot of times with your backup very, very far away, but we’re doing things for our workforce.”

She noted the department’s attrition rate is down in the past year or two and that shows some “positive” signs.

More broadly, she said her vision for the Border Patrol is to make sure agents in the field are supported and have everything they need. In that vein, she included addressing what the administration calls “loopholes” in the law — repeating the administration’s priority of giving them more enforcement and deportation authority.

Provost has been with the Border Patrol since 1995, beginning at a station along the southern border in Arizona, and rose through the ranks.

In 2011, she transferred from leadership in Arizona to a different sector along the border in Texas. She was promoted to oversee the office responsible for ensuring professional integrity in CBP, including regarding corruption and mismanagement, and was promoted again to deputy chief of Border Patrol in 2016.

Provost began her career as a police officer in Kansas.

Provost’s appointment is effective immediately.

Border Patrol is the division of Customs and Border Protection that primarily focuses on preventing people and contraband from entering the country illegally. It is responsible for more than 8,000 miles of land and coastal US border.