Last week, we noted that the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) endorsement of Donald Trump should not have been surprising, given the union’s longstanding relationship and collusion with the anti-immigrant movement. A new editorial and new opinion piece, by the New York Times and Bloombergrespectively, weigh in to offer additional commentary and condemnation. We present the pieces below, which are also available online here at the New York Times and at Bloomberg.
New York Times editorial, “The Border Patrol’s Bizarre Choice”:
“Turn away, for a moment, from the generalized idiocy of the presidential campaign to consider a specific instance of monumental dimness. It happened Wednesday.
The National Border Patrol Council, which says it represents 16,500 border agents, endorsedDonald Trump. It says it has never endorsed a presidential candidate in a primary before, but these are dire times.
“There is no greater physical or economic threat to Americans today than our open border,” says the endorsement, signed by the council’s president, Brandon Judd. The union “asks the American people to support Mr. Trump in his mission to finally secure the border of the United States of America, before it is too late.”
Too late for what? The collapse of America, apparently, from the “gangs, cartels and violent criminals preying on the innocent.”
It’s tempting to dismiss this as the usual politicized cop-talk, par for today’s course. But it’s far more dangerous and fraudulent than that. The lies behind it have preoccupied the country for a generation, consuming billions of dollars for miles of walls, razor wire, drones, sensors and a surge of agents and troops.
Despite the union’s apocalyptic warnings, the border is more militarized than ever, and arrests there are at historic lows. Illegal immigration has been falling for years. More Mexicans are leaving the country than entering. President Obama, far from abandoning immigration enforcement, has deported more people — more than two million — more quickly than his predecessors. A recent migrant influx in Texas consists of terrorized mothers and children fleeing Central America, trying legally to seek asylum. They deserve protection and the due process of law, not the administration’s aggressive efforts to deter and deport them.
The vast proportion of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are already living here are not criminals, don’t think or behave like criminals, and deserve a chance to stay, as immigrants have always done.
This is the truth, but truth hardly matters to politicians who prey on fear and hate. Those were the emotions Mr. Trump was summoning when he built his campaign on a cry about rapists and drug smugglers from Mexico and a promise to build a wall, deport the 11 million in two years and keep out Muslims.
Mr. Trump’s immigration views are driven by defiant ignorance. That they should be embraced by a union whose taxpayer-paid members are the face of the immigration policies of the United States is appalling.
If union leaders had their members’ interests in mind, they would not be aligning with vigilantes and nativists, birthers and borderline lunatics. They would know better than to view all unauthorized migrants as a class of hardened criminals, and they would treat as a delusion Mr. Trump’s plan to deport 11 million people in two years and to let “the good ones” back in.
But instead of informed discussion, there are Trump-level tirades. Listen to the national council’s podcast, “The Green Line,” and you can hear the hosts denounce the Black Lives Matter movement and assail Mr. Obama for supposedly not saluting the Marines who guard his helicopter. Their podcast begins with a ludicrous bit of audio from “Game of Thrones,” a character reciting a watchman’s oath: “I am the shield that guards the realm of men.”
That is the fantasy claptrap that feeds the thinking that dehumanizes migrants, that tolerates reckless violence by border agents, like the shooting of an unarmed child, in the back, through the fence, into Nogales, Mexico — one disturbing episode among many. It reveals an attitude that condones abuse and cruelty toward those in custody and justifies the profiling and harassment of drivers on the highway. And that perspective, not surprisingly, finds common cause with Mr. Trump.”
Bloomberg opinion piece by Frank Wilkinson, “Immigration Agents Whistle Trump’s Tune”:
“How disconnected is border policy in Washington from the border patrol agents who carry it out in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California? Last week, the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 16,500 of the nation’s more than 21,000 border patrol agents, endorsed Donald Trump for president. In case this obvious affront to the current president was insufficiently pronounced, the union’s press release took pains to spell it out, saying its members “selflessly serve this country in an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs.”
The rest of the release — “our first-ever endorsement in a presidential primary” based on Trump’s unique campaign — reads like a Tea Party decree circa 2014.
Immigration policy is immensely complex and, like other contentious political issues, subject to the variable weather of public opinion. But it’s also subject to a hefty amount of hostility from the federal agents who are tasked with carrying it out. In 2012, a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents sued the Barack Obama administration, claiming the administration required them not to enforce the law. The lawsuit was funded by NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group.
The affinity between some ICE agents, border patrol agents and anti-immigration groups is no secret. The Center for New Community, a Chicago-based nonprofit devoted to “countering the reality of racism and bigotry in America,” issued a 2015 report pointing out ties between border agents and anti-immigration groups.
“Most immigration enforcement agents that I know are good, hard-working people trying to do the best job they can,” said immigration attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, via e-mail. “Unfortunately, the National Border Patrol Council is just another anti-immigrant group.”
If the union is even slightly representative of many of the agents it represents, you can see how Obama’s policy of prioritizing deportations, with a heavy de facto emphasis on leniency for the law abiding, could often go awry in the field.
In Vox.com last year, Dara Lind wrote:
“Immigration agents have more power than anyone else in determining who gets deported — and, accordingly, have the responsibility to make sure that’s in line with the administration’s policy.
But rank-and-file agents have been fighting the administration for years over attempts from the White House to restrict agents’ ability to deport unauthorized immigrants.”
In effect, many agents, along with employees of states such as Texas, which has sued the Obama administration over its plan to enable millions of undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation and obtain work papers, spend their working hours undermining federal immigration policies. It’s not unlike a bunch of fire fighters wandering about town setting fire to abandoned buildings whenever the mood strikes them.
There’s a limit to what the White House can do about the situation. With the blessing of Congress, the border patrol has expanded aggressively in the past two decades. Border Patrol and ICE agents, not White House functionaries, are the ones out in field, patrolling the border areas and the interior, encountering undocumented immigrants and making decisions about what to do with them.
Like the anti-immigrant wing of Congress, they can be a hostile force, working at cross purposes to the executive under whom they serve. The Supreme Court, which will hear the Texas lawsuit against the administration this spring, can rule in Obama’s favor, enabling him to pursue his immigration policy via executive action. What it can’t do is make the agents in the field carry that policy out.”