SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol has a new acting chief — the first woman to lead the agency in its 93-year history — as the Trump administration pursues plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico and hiring 5,000 agents.
Carla Provost, the deputy chief since October, was named to the job on Tuesday after Ronald Vitiello became acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol. Vitiello replaced Randolph Alles, who was named to lead the Secret Service.
The moves don’t signal any shift in direction but they come as President Donald Trump seeks to make good on multibillion-dollar campaign pledges to build the wall and expand the Border Patrol’s ranks by 25 percent from about 20,000 agents currently. It marks the fourth change at the helm of the Border Patrol since late 2015, when Michael Fisher retired after five years on the job.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz said there were no dates for how long Vitiello and Provost would stay in the acting roles.
Vitiello was named to lead the Border Patrol after Mark Morgan was forced out less than a week after Trump took office. Morgan, a longtime FBI agent, left only seven months after being named the first outsider to lead the agency and clashing with the agents’ union, an outspoken supporter of Trump’s presidential bid.
Vitiello and Provost have spent most of their careers at the Border Patrol, Vitiello having joined the Border Patrol in 1985 as an agent in Laredo, Texas, and Provost 10 years later in Douglas, Arizona. Vitiello told agents in an email Tuesday that he picked Provost to be acting chief because she was a “shining example” of Border Patrol leadership.
“As always, we can expect an incredible amount of attention from the media, the public, and Congress as we put the pieces in place to secure our border,” Vitiello wrote. “We are charged with accomplishing this mission. Inspire and listen to people. Meet challenges head on and engage people with humble, dignified confidence in what we are doing. Failure is not an option.”
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, applauded the changes and said he expected them to become permanent if Vitiello chooses. He predicted Vitiello will stay heavily involved in efforts the Border Patrol’s major recruitment drive.
“(Provost) is absolutely a no-nonsense person who works really, really well with all kinds of diverse groups,” said Judd, whose union represents about 16,000 agents. “She’s going to be more a policy type of person behind the scenes.”
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