EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – She’s a woman on a mission and a leader proving she’s capable of handling any challenge that comes her way.
This week’s KTSM Borderland Spotlight features Gloria Chavez, who became the first female chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector in 2019.
Walking into the El Paso Border Patrol headquarters, you will notice a wall of photos of former chief patrol agents dating back to the 1920s. All of them are men, up until now.
“It will stay in the history books for someone in the future to say, ‘Oh wow they had a woman chief back in 2019,’ said Chavez as she pointed to the wall next to her.
She is also the first Hispanic woman to lead a sector in the entire nation.
“It’s a great pride but it is a huge responsibility. I don’t want to disappoint folks, but I feel that it’s a great honor, it’s such a great honor,” Chavez exclaimed.
Right now she is leading more than 2,300 Border Patrol employees in the El Paso Sector.
Chavez highlighted some of the programs she had a hand in and of which she’s most proud. “The Border Safety Initiative that still exists today and that’s to help and rescue migrants that are stranded on the border. The BORSTAR team. I’ve been known to be called the ‘Mother of BORSTAR’ because it grew out of BSI, the Border Safety Initiative.”
When asked if 22-year-old-old Gloria Chavez knew that this is where she would be now, Chavez said, “Absolutely not.”
“Gloria Chavez 22 years old, well at the time 22, I was a (sheriff’s deputy). I did not know what my path would be.”
Born in Dallas, her family would soon pick up and move to South Texas, where she attended elementary school. “I was raised by two extraordinary people that are very traditional. Mexican heritage, traditional Latino family. I’m very proud of my heritage and I’m very proud of this country.”
It was a behind-the-scenes job that led her to her first badge in Corpus Christi, Texas. “I was really intrigued by law enforcement because I started working there just as a regular clerk in a civilian position, but they placed me in the warrants division where I would see the detectives and I just got really intrigued by the work they did in law enforcement and just seeing women in law enforcement thinking like wow I could do that job too you know, and that’s when I applied.”
From a Nueces County Sheriff’s deputy to a Taft (Texas) police officer, she eventually got the call to switch into her greens with the U.S. Border Patrol in 1995.
“I was 25 years old. I was very anxious to start a federal career. Ideally, I thought, ‘Wow the benefits, the salary, the opportunity to travel and be assigned all throughout the country.’”
With over 19,000 Border Patrol agents across the U.S., only 5 percent are women, according to Chavez, and that often makes it challenging to promote within the federal law enforcement agency. “I sought opportunities that helped me grow as an employee and then obviously as a leader.”
Chaves has had an impressive career trajectory, starting as a field agent out in California to taking on a number of different high-ranking roles, including her first chief patrol agent position in Spokane, Washington. “I was the only woman that interviewed for the job and the other men were all deputy chiefs which means they were all second in command of a big sector area and I was just at a station commander.”
In her 27 years with the Border Patrol. she has served the northern and southern borders, but she knew she did not want to stop there, taking on two tours to D.C. In her latest one, she reached senior executive status.
“Which is the highest position in federal government that someone as a federal employee can achieve. It’s been a phenomenal journey,” Chavez added. “I really love this organization for what it stands for.”
Calling her experience here in the Borderland rewarding, she said she was finally able to return to her home state and ensure operations run smoothly out in the field and with those vested in our community.
As she begins a new chapter with the Border Patro, she has a message for not only other women but other Latinos: “There are so many things you can achieve. … This country is the land of opportunity so keep striving and keep being successful and go after your passion. I did!”
Chief Chavez’s time with the El Paso Sector is quickly winding down. Just a few days ago, she announced her next duty is taking her back to the Rio Grande Valley where her family is from and where she will now lead that sector.