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First Ever Female Border Patrol Chief 09/26 06:43

First Ever Female Border Patrol Chief  09/26 06:43

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost says she hopes she 
can inspire other women to sign up with the agency, which has just one female 
agent for every 20 men.

   "If you're a woman in law enforcement, I don't care where you're at, you're 
a minority," Provost told The Associated Press in an interview.

   Provost, who joined the agency in 1995 and became its acting chief in April 
2017, took over last month as the first female chief in its 94-year history.

   The Border Patrol and its 19,000 agents have been under a constant 
spotlight. Curbing immigration remains at the top of President Donald Trump's 
priorities, and the administration plans to add 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

   The agency has come under fire for its checkpoints within 100 miles (160 
kilometers) of the border. And it faced withering criticism for its role in the 
administration's zero-tolerance policy this spring that resulted in the 
separation of nearly 3,000 migrant children from their parents. It's the 
subject of federal litigation on holding facilities where migrants complain of 
freezing temperatures, inedible food and overcrowding.

   Earlier this month, a supervisor in Laredo, Texas, was arrested on 
allegations he killed four women. Provost placed him on unpaid suspension and 
said she was "sickened and saddened" by the alleged acts of a "rogue 
individual."

   "I would hate for this to tarnish the great work that those men and women 
do," she said at a news conference aside Texas law enforcement.

   Provost is also dealing with increased arrests at the southwest border --- a 
possible marker that more people are coming in illegally and one that roils the 
Trump administration and the president himself. But for all the controversy 
surrounding her agency, she is not a controversial figure. Her appointment 
didn't require Senate confirmation and immigration advocates and Democratic 
lawmakers critical of Trump's policies haven't criticized her.

   Provost is personable and deeply knowledgeable about the Border Patrol. She 
started as an agent in Douglas, Arizona, after a short tenure as a police 
officer in Kansas, where her detail included breaking up fights at bars. She 
said she wanted to get into federal law enforcement and had never been to the 
border before joining the agency.

   Back then apprehension was mostly just returning people over the line. 
They'd turn around and come right back, Provost said, and she'd catch the same 
group three times a night. She liked the work, but it was frustrating.

   "And I think the difference then, too, is we didn't deliver any 
consequences," she said.

   The only way someone was fingerprinted was if the person was recognized to 
be a smuggler, Provost said.

   "And you took him into the station, rolled their prints, faxed them off to 
the FBI," Provost said. "What were we really accomplishing then?"

   She said being a woman in a largely male organization didn't cause her 
problems. 

   "Now, I'm 6-foot tall. That might help when it comes to my stature. Whether 
it was the police department or the Border Patrol, I was a police officer, not 
a female police officer. I'm a Border Patrol agent, not a female Border Patrol 
Agent."

   She worked in top management positions in El Paso, Texas, and El Centro, 
California, before transferring in 2015 to headquarters, where she focused on 
efforts to clamp down on corruption, misconduct and mismanagement.

   "There is no one more suited to lead the Border Patrol," U.S. Customs and 
Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said after her appointment.

   Even without the public pressure, recruiting for the job is difficult, 
Provost said. Agents must undergo a detailed background investigation, plus a 
polygraph exam with an average 28 percent pass rate.

   They're stationed in remote locations along difficult terrain and work 
grueling shifts in scorching heat or bitter cold, often walking miles alone 
tracking people who crossed illegally. Sometimes backup is hours away.

   "The majority of my personnel are working along the southwest border. I 
can't compete with a police department where you can live in the city you were 
born and raised in," she said.

   Provost said the agency also struggles with available child care, education 
and access to medical care in the most remote locations. But she said agents 
are now allowed to move around after a few years, a big change she hopes will 
result in more people willing to start off in a remote post and transfer to a 
border city.

   "Honestly, the fact that I'm sitting in the position I'm sitting in will 
help as well," she said. 


(KA)