Border Patrol Union Cozies Up to Trump, Dividing Agents
Not all members of the increasingly diverse U.S. Border Patrol force are on board with the immigration policy proposals put forth by Donald Trump, which include sealing the U.S.-Mexico border and banning Muslims from entering the country.
The National Border Patrol Council — the union representing thousands of border patrol agents — endorsed Trump in March, leading some critics to question whether it was a sign of support for his controversial rhetoric. On Thursday, the union announced the debut of a radio program — with Trump as its inaugural guest.
Trump will discuss border control on its new program, "The Green Line," which is set to air Sunday on KVOI The Voice 1030 AM in Tucson, Arizona, and is streamed live at the station's website.
"We are pleased to welcome Mr. Donald Trump as our first guest," union President Brandon Judd said in a statement. "Other candidates in the field have either remained silent, or advocated for the expansion of President Obama's failed amnesty, and weak enforcement policies."
But this does not reflect how many Border Patrol agents feel about Trump.
Nearly half of 18,000 agents working at the southwest border are Latino, according to government figures. "The Border Patrol has changed tremendously in the last 10 to 20 years," said David Shirk, a political science associate professor at the University of San Diego. "While all of them are committed to the agency's mission and believe strongly in [the] work that they're doing, they don't reflect some of the more traditional stereotypes of the Border Patrol as a bunch of white guys chasing Mexicans."
The union's support of Trump has polarized agents, many of them of Mexican descent, who are worried about being at the center of controversy over the GOP candidate's central national security proposal. Don McDermott, a former Border Patrol agent, told the Los Angeles Times that several agents are worried the union's position reflects negatively on everyone.
"It is probable that the endorsement of Mr. Trump would expose both the union and the individual members to accusations of xenophobia and even racism," he said. "The reputation of the agency and of every agent is called into question."
Evidence of Trump's impact on the rank-and-file Border Patrol agents came recently when a group of students took a field trip to the border. At the enforcement zone near San Diego, California, a high school student from Oakland witnessed the tearful moment when Mexican families are allowed to reunite with loved ones who had been detained.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the student was not impressed by the agents' attempt at compassion for the detainees and asked why the agents would support a presidential candidate who has referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.
"He asked how can Border Patrol agents be supporting hateful rhetoric that seems to contradict the spirit of the ... event," Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee and leader of the students' field trip, told the LA Times. The agents didn't respond to the boy's question.
But they had undoubtedly seen the union's strongly worded endorsement that piqued the boy's curiosity. Here's an excerpt from the endorsement statement, released in late March:
Mr. Trump is correct when he says immigration wouldn't be at the forefront of this presidential campaign if months ago he hadn't made some bold and necessary statements. And when the withering media storm ensued, he did not back down one iota. That tells you the measure of a man. When the so-called experts said he was too brash and outspoken, and that he would fade away, they were proven wrong. We are confident they will be proven wrong again in November when he becomes President of the United States. There is no greater physical or economic threat to Americans today than our open border.
There has been talk within Trump's campaign that his immigration proposals, which include building an impenetrable wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, have sparked a rush for the border ahead of the November presidential election. Recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection data show approximately 150,300 migrants were detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between last October and February, according to Reuters. Detainees were up 24% from the same period a year ago.