As Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost tells it, there is “no difference between female agents, male agents — we’re all Border Patrol agents.”
Provost, the agency’s first female head, sat down with Women Rule to discuss her history-making career, the Border Patrol’s vast gender gap, and why it matters to have more women in their ranks.
Journalist Amanda Ripley interviewed Provost at her Washington, D.C., office this fall.
The full transcript is below.
Ripley: I guess I want to start with a little history.
Ripley: So, you’ve served in the Border Patrol for 22 years, working your way up the ranks, doing just about every job that can be done, from patrolling the southwest border, to teaching agents how to do bike patrol, and handle firearms at the academy, and investigating corruption the agency. Which part of your career do you look back on with the most fondness?
Provost: Oh, I would definitely say my 11 and a half years I spent in Douglas, which is where I started my career. That’s where I did bike patrol. I was a firearms instructor, I taught post-academy with the new trainees that came in. Just the dynamic of working with the men and women there, I arrived in 1995—
Ripley: This is Arizona.
Provost: In Arizona—Douglas, Arizona, and it really kind of blew up at that time, that area. It got very, very busy. We went from a—when my class graduated the academy and arrived, about a 40-man station, to over the little over 10 years, 11 years that I was there, to over a 500-man station, as well as numerous detailers coming in throughout the years to support efforts.
I watched border infrastructure go up, technology go into place, watched the Border Patrol grow; just really a dynamic time to be in the Border Patrol. And I have to admit, probably my favorite time, still to this day, was working on the bike patrol unit. I was an agent for two years, and then I supervised the unit for a little over a year, as well.
Ripley: What did you like about bike patrol?
Provost: Just the camaraderie; the small team tactics. Interesting dynamic when you get small groups of people together, working together. And having to deal with the personalities, but really a good teamwork effort.
Ripley: You’ve, over the years—this is not a complete list. You’ve been stoned by drug smugglers, chased in cars, kicked by angry detainees. Is the adrenaline—not to minimize; these are serious things. Is the adrenaline part of the appeal?
Provost: You know, that’s hard to say. It’s certainly—I was drawn to law enforcement, I think, in probably my teen years and as I know you know, I was a police officer before joining the Border Patrol.
Ripley: In Kansas.
Provost: In Kansas, yes. It was just something that I wouldn’t say that that’s it. It’s the wanting to serve, wanting to do something that’s great for the country. I was just raised that way. And the excitement that comes from knowing that you’re doing something to help protect the country.
Ripley: Did you have military in your family? Or what was the—
Provost: No, not really, I didn’t. And I didn’t have law enforcement, but I grew up in a really small town in Kansas, and just that—a lot of military—a lot of folks that maybe had the experience. It was a farming community for the most part, but I believe that just kind of Independence Day, the national spirit really thrived in the community, and the pride in being an American, and what we stand for and wanting to help support this great nation, I think.
Ripley: A year ago, you were promoted to deputy chief of the Border Patrol, and the headline then was that you were the first woman to be deputy chief. Then, this year you were promoted, again, to acting chief, and again the headline was: first woman to have this role. So, you broke two records in six months, but I get the sense it’s not the number one way you see yourself, as the first woman blank. You’ve said, “I never saw myself as a female agent.” What do you mean by that?
Provost: It was—what I mean is I see myself as a Border Patrol agent. And no difference between female agents, male agents; we’re all Border Patrol agents, and that was something I’ve always, I guess, aspired to throughout my career, but I really—I don’t think I thought about it too much coming up through the Border Patrol. I mean, when I joined the Border Patrol, of course, a male-dominated profession. But the key in the Border Patrol is if you go out, you do a good job, then you’re recognized for it, whether you’re male or female.
And that’s been my experience in the Border Patrol. Now, on the same note, if you’re not a hard worker, that gets recognized, as well, so really just going out and wanting to be the best agent that I could be, and for the majority of my career, at least, my experience has been I’ve been treated like everybody else.
Ripley: So, there’s almost something diminishing by making it—instead of the first blank, you’re the first female blank. I can’t relate to that, of course, but I know when I was a kid, I played with a few other girls on all-boys travel soccer team, because there was no girl option at the time. And at the end of the season, the coach gave out awards to different players, and there was best at headers, best at slide tackling, and then for all the girls, three of us, he gave us best at playing with the boys. And there was something—I don’t know, you just wanted to be good at something. You didn’t want to be like, oh, nice for you.
Provost: And I get it, and I think for me where it probably stemmed from is both of my parents—I was participating in a lot of athletics as a—up through my high school years, and my parents always instilled in me, do the best you can do at whatever you choose to do, but there wasn’t a—well, you can only do this because you’re a girl. I competed with the boys all the time. My father was extremely supportive in that, as was my mother, and I think I just never really looked at that I couldn’t do something because I was a female, or that it had to be different, or I had to look at it differently.
So, I think that’s probably led into—and really, those experiences, I know what you’re talking about when somebody says that, and I think most of the women in the Border Patrol kind of have that similar—they’re very proud of the fact that they go through the exact same training, the exact same physical training. We all do the same to become a Border Patrol agent, and I think there’s a huge pride in that.
Ripley: Right, as so while you’ve graciously acknowledged these milestones—being the first female acting chief—it’s sort of like a trophy you’re not sure where to put.
Provost: I think that’s a great way of putting it. Yes, I realize it’s a milestone, and I think it’s a positive thing. It’s a great thing, but at the same time, I’ve never really approached it as I wanted to be the first female this or that. I just want to do the best that I can do in whatever job I’m doing.
Ripley: And I bring this up because the last we heard, women make up about 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.
Provost: Yes, that’s correct.
Ripley: That’s just under 1,000 women about of about 18,000 agents, give or take, which is a little worse than the Marines, lower than the percentage of female construction workers, lower even—even—than the percentage of top Hollywood movie directors who are women.
Provost: Well, that doesn’t make us look good.
Ripley: I’m not trying to rub it in. I’m just asking, what’s your theory? Why is this ratio so low?
Provost: So, I’ve been asked this question numerous times throughout my career, and in my—I’m getting close to 23 years here. I’ll hit 23 years in January. We’ve been at 5 percent, women in the Border Patrol, the whole time I’ve been in. People try to compare us to other law enforcement, and I was a police officer before, and we were at about 10 percent, I think, women at my police department back in Kansas. The Border Patrol is—nothing is quite like it.
The dynamics, the—you’re asking people to pick up and move from, for me, from Kansas down to a little border town that maybe doesn’t have good school systems, health care, just picking up and moving your whole family. In the Border Patrol, we’re not located in a lot of prime cities that people want to be in. For the majority of our agents—16,000 of them, at least—are along the southwest border, living in small communities, and if you’re not from that area, it can be a little bit of a shock for folks.
So, I think those things impact it. And I don’t know that it impacts women per se, as both men and women, when it comes to people who want to be Border Patrol agents, who want to—and then choose to stay in the Border Patrol, as well. Because we have many that come in, and they move onto different careers, as well. It’s probably the closest you could get to is some of the military. That’s why we like to recruit veterans, because somebody who wants to be outdoors; somebody who wants to work by themselves.
I think a lot of folks don’t necessarily know what all we do, if you don’t live in a border community. The majority of our recruitment comes from those border communities. Middle American, I think for the most part, does not necessarily know really the dynamics of the job and the huge opportunities, and the different things that you can do. Like everyone else, you have to pay your dues, and spend time maybe doing the work that’s not as exciting as bike patrol, firearms, those types of things that I mentioned earlier.
But for women, I think it’s just we’re not a standard police department. We’re not the same as our partners in OFO, in office of field operations, as well; we’re not in every major city across the country where you could work in an airport, confined spaces. We’re asking people to go out, work night shifts in the desert, by themselves, tracking up groups, not necessarily knowing what they’re coming into.
And I think there’s more we can do to recruit women, but I don’t ever see our numbers being huge in the Border Patrol. It’s a certain type of person, male or female.
Ripley: You’ve said you would like to get to 10 percent. Is that still a goal, you think?
Provost: No, certainly. I would certainly say that. I don’t ever see us at numbers—I think field operations is up around 20 percent, maybe even higher. I don’t ever see us reaching that just because of the locations, those things that I mentioned earlier. It’s not for everybody, but certainly, increasing our diversity in the Border Patrol is a positive thing for us, and that’s not just necessarily speaking about women.
It’s speaking about the diversity as a whole. The Border Patrol is—and a lot of people don’t know this. I think we’re about 54 percent Hispanic, so it’s one of those things, the more women, the more African-Americans, the more all of our different groups—I think it just makes us better, as a whole.
Ripley: When do you think is a realistic timeline to get to 10 percent women?
Provost: Good question. I don’t know, because it’s a tough thing. As I said, for 22 years, we’ve been trying to recruit more women. I think we’re doing—making some great strides right now that should have some impacts that I hope to see increases coming, but it’s a difficult thing to predict.
Ripley: Just to be contrarian for a second, are we sure we need more women in this job? I can make the argument for why we need more female police officers, or CEOs, or for that matter, more male teachers or nurses. But do we really need to have more women in this job?
Provost: I think it benefits us. And it comes back to the diversity. We come into contact from people from all different ethnicities and races in the job that we do. But beyond that, women bring a different perspective, and I think that’s good for the Border Patrol. I’ve worked with some really, really great women over the years, and you’ll hear some of the men say it. “Wow, she’s really 10-8.”
Provost: 10-8 means—thank you for having me clarify—meaning she’s got it down, she’s a hard worker, she knows how to do the job, she’s going to get the job done. One of those that you would say, “Hey, I’ll go out with her. She’s got my back. I know that.” And we have some others that that may not be the case, but I still think it is certainly important for us to have women in the Border Patrol.
We certainly bring a different perspective to the table, even in just the way that we approach things, which I know you know on the differences between how men and women approach. It’s one of those things that it’s hard to say what number is the right number, but diversity as a whole makes us all better.
Ripley: When you joined the Border Patrol in 1995, do you remember how many women were in your class at the Border Patrol Academy?
Provost: Yes. There were five of us.
Ripley: Out of roughly—
Provost: Out of about 40. We were unique at that time. We made up about 10 percent. And so, you know, four of us made it through our—what was a 10-month exam back then. So, you had to take a six-month exam and a 10-month exam after you graduated the academy, to still retain your job. And all four of us still work in the Border Patrol today.
Ripley: Nice. Are you in touch with any of them?
Provost: I am. Yes. I’ve worked with two of them. Well, actually I’ve worked with all three of my other classmates over the years.
Ripley: And when you were a police officer right before that in Manhattan, Kansas, do you remember how many other female officers there were?
Provost: There were seven of us on the entire police department, but it wasn’t a huge police department. We were about 10 percent.
Ripley: Can you think of any situations involving the Border Patrol in which it was good that there was a woman there, in the scenario?
Provost: Well, I would say certainly there have been situations—I think one thing that women bring to the table is—well, I’ll use an example with myself, working out east of Douglas. I apprehended a group of 63 individuals by myself.
Ripley: So, wait. How do you—how does one do that? I mean, I know you said you had a loud voice, but I can’t—there needs to be more.
Provost: Well, and when I say by myself, I had a partner, but he was several—quite a ways away, and I had to walk the individuals out. But this is what I’m talking about with the Border Patrol being different. It’s officer presence. In all reality back then, what would happen is the guides would run off, and they’d leave the group. And they’re in the middle of nowhere.
So, what are they going to do? There’s—I know where I’m going. They don’t know where they’re going. But the authority figure—but there’s also a different approach, I think, when women come onto the scene, on whether or not—and I experienced this as a police officer, as well. I could come in and break up fights easier than the men could break up fights. I could come in and just because when they see a female, it impacts that, and I think it impacts a group, too, when okay, now wait a minute. Is this a male agent or a female agent?
And to say exactly how that impacts it, I have experienced it a few times throughout my career, and I think there are certain things that it is a benefit to come into. Quite often, stressful situations, if a female agent comes in, sometimes it’s a calming effect, if things are getting out of control, if somebody’s upset, if they’re considering physically assaulting.
Ripley: So, in this case, in the Douglas incident with this large group of people, what made you feel like maybe there was some advantage here? Like, how could you tell that they were reacting to you?
Provost: I think they—when I spoke to them and told them, “Look, we’re going to walk out here, and we’ll get you food and water,” and those kinds of things, maybe almost—because they’re nervous and almost a calming effect of okay, and they listened, and they followed me out.
Ripley: Was part of you a little worried they weren’t going to comply and then they did, and that felt like maybe—
Provost: No, I think I’d been in long enough at that point, and had come across enough. It wasn’t so much that concern for me, but—and really unless they were to assault me, the only other thing they were going to do was run off, and then they’re lost in a desert area where they don’t know where they’re going.
Ripley: It’s funny, I’ve noticed in interviewing a number of women who work in federal law enforcement that sometimes the value seems to be not just what women themselves bring to the table, due to their gender, but more about what the public brings to the table when they see a woman sitting there. In other words, it’s like the optics matter. And that’s kind of what you’re saying, right, is that there’s a perception that can work to your disadvantage or your advantage.
Provost: And that’s true. It can work either way.
Ripley: Can you think of moments when it maybe has worked to your disadvantage?
Provost: Well, I can say obviously you come into—if cultural differences and respect maybe that’s paid to the male gender over the female gender, I’ve come into contact with that a few times. And my stature has maybe helped me a little bit in that realm, though, where we’ve got—we have female agents that are—in fact, I just recently met one who is—she’s an immigrant over here who’s—she’s 4’10”.
And I’m telling you, she’s a trainee, but can get the job done. Going through right now and I’m excited to see how she does through the academy, so that might be a different dynamic, too.
Ripley: How tall are you, since we’re not on TV?
Provost: I’m 6-foot tall, so I think that has certainly helped me in my career, both as a police officer, and just when a 6-foot tall woman comes walking into the scene, it’s not the norm.
Ripley: Speaking of not the norm, are you hearing at all from female or male agents about what your ascension to chief represents to them? Is there anything surprising about people’s reactions so far?
Provost: I wouldn’t say anything surprising. I have heard from numerous people. I’ve heard from a lot of the female agents that—you know, I mentioned it earlier, of course, I never wanted to be seen as one, but I know I am, to certain individuals, seen as that female agent. And look, if it tells the other female agents that you can do, aspire, and be anything in this organization, that’s a positive, and I think it’s had that impact on some of our younger agents now, knowing that, hey, you can make it all the way to the top.
So, I’ve heard from females. I hear from plenty of male agents; those are mostly the ones that I’ve worked with over the years, though, that are just congratulating me on making it this far, as well.
Ripley: So, one of the things I’ve asked women and men is what do you think women may be—what different perspectives do they bring that might be valuable? But it’s a little diabolical, because when I ask people what women bring that’s different than men, I’m kind of forcing them to stereotype, and we very quickly get into this, well, maybe they’re better with kids, or good at deescalating, and then they end up apologizing. They’re like, not to say—because not every woman is good with kids, or good at deescalating. I’ve definitely seen women who are not good with kids, or deescalating, but—
Provost: As have I.
Ripley: And there’s some men who are fantastic at deescalating, and with kids, so we get into this ridiculous kind of reductionist conversation, but to not talk about it seems to be not the answer. So, I guess I want to be specific, if I can, if somehow that will help. It may not, but you stood up the agency’s use of force center for excellence, and I guess I wonder how gender does or just does not play into use of force. I mean, there’s some research that suggests women may be a little less likely to use force in policing, but that research is not conclusive, in my opinion. What does your experience tell you about this? Is there a difference?
Provost: Well, when you speak specifically to use of force, I have not really witnessed a difference. The women that I’ve worked with, if there has been a need, which is always the key, right, when it comes to using force; if there’s been a requirement to do it, they’ve stepped up and done it. So, I think when you speak specifically to the use of force, I really don’t think there’s a gender specific. I think you kind of pointed it out earlier; there are men that are good at certain things, women that are good at certain things.
There are men and women that probably approach it mentally in their minds in what their next step is, but we train everybody the same way for a reason. We train them to understand when it’s appropriate, escalation, de-escalation of force, as well, and I don’t know that it’s really a gender-specific issue.
I would say what women do bring to the table is I think we approach things differently. And we may all come to the same conclusion; we may come to a different conclusion, but I think maybe just the way that we think about it might be a different approach in general terms. Not all of us, right; we’re all individuals. In general terms, it brings—it’s just—I don’t know how to say it.
Ripley: Is there any specific example that comes to mind where you felt like women were thinking, approaching the same problem, maybe coming to the same conclusion, with a little bit different approach? Maybe you were? Maybe another woman?
Provost: Well, I think it happens all the time in meetings and discussions as we deal with strategy, particularly, at the sectors, at the headquarters. We’re trying to solve problems. I think that’s where a key success is; having—it’s tough, I don’t want to be gender specific because we have different personalities that come to the table, and you have people that are more creative and those that are more analytical in their thinking, and it just really comes back to diversity in general, diversity in people.
And that’s not necessarily race, gender. I think just having a diverse work group with different backgrounds, which we really do in the Border Patrol. We have people that come from all over the place, and different perspectives. It can be impacted by where you grew up, the way you were raised. I just think it’s important to have that type of diversity. It’s a tough question when it comes to women in the work force.
Ripley: You’ve taught a lot of agents over the years. You mentioned training and the importance of that. Have you noticed any patterns at all with regards to gender? Are there any differences in the things that female and male agents at the academy seem to worry about or excel at?
Provost: Another tough one. It’s hard to be gender-specific there. I think it’s individual specific. There are maybe some generational—you see the differences in dealing with different groups and how you approach it. One of the things when—whether it’s teaching, whether it’s mentoring, what I tell young supervisors always in dealing with people is something I learned early on. I try to follow the platinum rule.
We all know the golden rule, which is treat others as you want to be treated. I talked to—and I think this goes in numerous areas. I follow the platinum rule, because that’s really treat others how they want to be treated, and it takes you have to know each individual, because we’re all different. So, our approaches are different, and as you move into leadership roles, I think it’s key to know your people.
It’s the same for training. Know your people, and know how to get the best out of them, and how they’re going to respond, whether male or female. I know that’s probably not really answering your question, but that’s been my experience.
Ripley: One of the things I’ve heard teachers, just out in the general population say, is that sometimes their female students are very diligent and compliant, but they have to push them harder to take risks, whereas sometimes the opposite is true. Again, speaking in sweeping, unfair stereotypes, with their male students. Do you ever see any of that sort of difference?
Provost: I’ve seen it with women, but I’ve seen it with men, as well, in their approach.
Ripley: And it may be that you don’t go out for the Border Patrol if you’re super risk averse, just generally.
Provost: Those are probably the individuals who it just doesn’t appeal to, and maybe it—or they choose not to stay with the Border Patrol. My experience with the women—the majority of the women that I’ve worked with in the Border Patrol is they’re just—they’re really go-getters. You can tell this is something they love to do. It’s a career for them.
It’s important that they’ve proved themselves that they can do the same job as the men. That has been the majority of my experience with the women that are in the patrol.
Ripley: It reminds me of yesterday, we were at Camp Lejeune with some of your recruiters talking with Marines, who are exiting the military and looking for career opportunities—
Provost: Great, I like to hear that when it comes to the recruiting side of the house.
Ripley: Yeah, so we met a female Marine who is also a mechanic in the Marines, so she’s sort of like very, very rare. She’s a female Marine who’s a mechanic, so—but she’s thinking about applying to join—
Provost: Well, if she’s listening, please apply.
Ripley: But one of the things she said—obviously, she’s comfortable being around men. She wouldn’t be in that job. But one of the things she said is that she does feel like she needs to prove herself quickly with new people, and more—she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
Ripley: Sometimes, I think the opposite of discrimination is benefit of the doubt. She doesn’t—so, she needs to be twice as good. Once she shows that, she’s good. But I wonder, did you develop any specific strategies around that, sort of showing quickly that—
Provost: Definitely. Now, definitely. Now, that’s something I would say, as a female in the Border Patrol, I think the majority of us do feel that pressure, that you have to show them, hey, I can do this. And then I’m here, and I think in talking to a lot of the female agents, I think they’ve experienced similar—I guess I don’t look at that as a negative, though. It comes back to my upbringing and the aspect of you do the best you can do at whatever job you set your mind on.
Ripley: It’s meritocratic, in the end.
Ripley: But how did you do it? How did you quickly show—can you remember in a certain role, a trick or sort of strategy that you would do.
Provost: Just making sure that you’re in there, you’re upfront, that if you’re out doing the job and there’s a smuggling case, or there’s narcotics coming across, that you’re there, you’re answering up on the radio, you’re responding. You’re out there, and that the guys see that you’re out there doing it—doing the job.
Ripley: So, you make yourself visible.
Ripley: You don’t have that second cup of coffee. Or maybe you do, for the extra caffeine, one way or the other. You make sure people see you.
Provost: You’re out there, you’re responding, you’re showing them that you’re excited to be here and to do the job, and yes.
Ripley: Again, not the same by any comparison, but I know in journalism, for a long time, I sort of sometimes subconsciously avoided writing about certain things. Like I’d get assigned a story about education, which I ended up writing about quite a bit, but for years, I would find a better idea, and just kind of distract the editor, because I noticed that women would get sent off to write about education, and you’d never hear from them again, like it was not Afghanistan, or the White House in journalism. There was not the prestige. So, you kind—I still to this day don’t write about parenting. I have a child, I care about parenting and about him, but I find it’s like a—there’s risk with that as a woman. Were there certain assignments or postings that were like that within the Border Patrol that you tried to just gently circumvent or navigate around?
Provost: Yes. I made sure that I was known as an operator. We talk in the Border Patrol about operations or administration side of the house. And I did make a conscious decision, and I think I made that decision because I was a female, or because I am a female. As I was coming through my career, those administrative type assignments, I know at one point in time, I was offered the supervisor of the admin duties and I turned it down, on purpose, because as a female, I looked at it that I had to prove that I could do the operations side of the house.
So, yes, I have experienced that. I’ve talked to women about that, as well, making sure that you touch all aspects of the job. It makes you better at what you do, understanding it all, but I made a conscious effort early on to be the operator, and then later on, I learned the more administrative functions.
Ripley: Do you find—were there other decisions that you made that maybe were influenced by your gender, around your career? I mean, like a lot of Border Patrol agents, you have a child. Did that—were there challenges around that? I assume they’re the same challenges that male—that fathers face in this?
Provost: Yes, I think so. I think those challenges are more with I’ve moved around a lot in my career, and I’ve uprooted my daughter numerous times. I was lucky to kind of move into the more day shift Monday through Friday time not long after her birth, so that probably made things a little bit easier for me, though all of the moves and the long hours that come with the job do not.
But I think it’s something that all of agent’s experience. It’s tough working jobs where you work shift work, where you work on the weekends and you’re working midnight shift. I loved working those shifts, but I can certainly see the strains that it puts on our agents who are still doing that work, and have a family to take care of.
Ripley: So, I’m wondering—the Border Patrol made an effort to target women a few years ago, getting special permission from OMB to do a tailored vacancy announcement. Over 5,000 women applied, and there were some challenges in getting them all through the pipeline. And I’ll talk to HR people in the agency about that, but I’m wondering, is there anything specific that hasn’t been tried that you’d like to try, when it comes to recruiting or retaining female Border Patrol officers?
Provost: Our folks in human resource management, and our recruiting teams have been working really diligently to look at different things. I think a lot of our recruiting, which I mentioned earlier, a lot of our hiring has been from individuals who grew up along the southwest border, because they know what we do. We’re currently trying to—and I think there’s more for us to do—expand our recruiting efforts more to the interior of the United States.
More to areas like where I came from; not a lot of Border Patrol agents come out of Kansas. Our numbers are pretty small. And I, myself, didn’t know anything about the Border Patrol when I joined.
Ripley: How did you find out about it?
Provost: A U.S. Marshal; I was going through the hiring process, so I was a police officer, I was going through the hiring process with the U.S. Marshal service, I was almost through, and they had a hiring freeze. And it was a U.S. Marshal who said, “Hey, if you want to get your foot in the door, the Border Patrol is hiring.”
So, I thought, well, great, I’ll get—I’ll put in and see whether I can get in, because I wanted—at that time, I thought I wanted to go onto something bigger and better than the Border Patrol, not really knowing it. And I got into the Border Patrol, and one year in, I swore I’d never leave. It’s a great agency. It’s a family, it really is. We refer to it in that fashion.
But when it comes back to—to bring it full circle—to the recruiting effort, I don’t think I had a hard time transitioning into the Border Patrol because I grew up in a small-town environment. And going from a small town in Kansas to a small town along the southwest border was not a huge change for me.
Ripley: So, it might be a good place to recruit from.
Provost: It might be a good place to recruit from, and I think expanding into some of those areas and letting more people know what we do, because I didn’t know, really, what the Border Patrol did back then when I joined. And I think we’re doing a much better job; we’re getting the message out.
I think middle America knows more about what the Border Patrol does now than it did, certainly, when I came into the Border Patrol. But there’s always more that we could do there.
Ripley: Well, you’re getting a lot of PR from our president, who is talking a lot about the border.
Ripley: Who has asked you to hire 5,000 more agents, which would be a huge lift, given the challenges in recruiting, not just women but men, and retaining them. Has there been a spike in morale in the agency because we have a president who’s talking a lot about the border, and about beefing up Border Patrol, and the wall, and consequences for illegal immigrants? Has that had an effect, do you think?
Provost: Yes, I would say it’s definitely had a positive effect. When I’ve gone out and spoken with agents in muster—so, muster is where we all come together at the beginning of the shift. I’m seeing that enthusiasm. Obviously, whenever you have support for the work that you’re doing, and our frontline men and women do a really tough job.
And they put their lives on the line, day in and day out to protect this nation. I mean, that’s really what our mission is, and that is what they’re doing out there. And I think having that support has really made them feel good. And as it should, because it’s a tough mission that we have to do. It’s not just an immigration; it’s a national security mission.
And the types of things that our frontline agents come in contact with—the risks—it’s a dangerous job. We’ve lost far too many men and women in the line of duty, over the years, over our 93-and-a-half-year history, over—well, I think we just hit 125. It’s a dangerous job. It’s a tough job, but it is a job worth doing. And I think the fact that they’re getting some support certainly helps bolster their morale.
Ripley: Last question, because I want to save some time to do some quick photos.
Ripley: Is there a flip side to that, as well? I mean, we just recently had the head of the DEA resign, saying that he feels that President Trump does not respect the rule of law. I mean, your whole life has been about the rule of law, and the agents are there to defend the rule of law. Is there a flipside to some of this same rhetoric?
Provost: Well, I think specific to the Border Patrol, I think the agents are feeling empowered to actually enforce the laws that are on the books. We don’t make the laws. We follow the laws that are on the books and the men and women out there really just want to enforce those laws that they have been trained to enforce, that they’ve been—and I think they feel empowered to do their jobs now.
So, that’s a difficult question to answer, I think, from my perspective, and from the Border Patrol perspective right now, having that support and having that ability to go out and do the job that they were hired for is certainly bringing up their morale.
Ripley: So, that seems like the more—the bigger factor right now. I’m thinking that since you—as you noted, over half the Border Patrol is Latino, that there might be some tension there when the way the president has spoken about Mexicans, speaking of stereotyping. I mean, are you struggling with that? Is there a push and pull on the sort of bombastic rhetoric? Has its pros, has its cons?
Provost: I have not seen it. I have not witnessed it with our men and women. And I certainly don’t want to speak for all of our agents that are Latino or Latina on their thought process, on the issue, but I know they’re all patriots, and hard workers, and I think the national security mission is what brings them to this job, that drives most of us to doing the job. We want to protect America. And I wouldn’t want to speak on behalf of them, but I know that—I know Border Patrol agents and I know they are dedicated Americans who just really want to go out and protect the country from those who would do us harm.
Ripley: Thank you very much, chief. I appreciate the time.
Provost: Thank you for the time.