Immigrant Activists Call for AFL-CIO To Expel Border Patrol Union After Donald Trump Endorsement

Mario Vasquez April 5, 2016

Donald Trump on a recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. (Matthew Busch / Getty Images)

The Nation­al Bor­der Patrol Coun­cil (NBPC), a union rep­re­sent­ing 14,000 U.S Bor­der Patrol agents, endorsed Don­ald Trump for Pres­i­dent on March 30. It was the union’s first pres­i­den­tial endorse­ment. In response, Not1More, a nation­al cam­paign for immi­grant rights, released a state­ment last week call­ing for the AFL-CIO to end its affil­i­a­tion with the bor­der patrol agents, declar­ing there’s no room for hate in the house of labor.” 

Although the AFL-CIO is a staunch ally to immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties,” accord­ing to Not1More orga­niz­er Marisa Fran­co, the NBPC’s endorse­ment rep­re­sents a very clear dilem­ma inside of labor.”

We want­ed to shine a light on the fact that inside of the fed­er­a­tion, there is this bor­der patrol union that has a lega­cy of abuse and bru­tal­i­ty in immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties,” says Fran­co, stress­ing that the endorse­ment of Trump is objec­tion­able because of his racism, xeno­pho­bia, [and] misogyny.”

But NBPC is adamant that Trump is the only” accept­able can­di­date giv­en his out­spo­ken­ness on the destruc­tion wrought by open bor­ders.” They said in an endorse­ment announce­ment:

We need a per­son in the White House who does­n’t fear the media, who does­n’t embrace polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, who does­n’t need the mon­ey, who is famil­iar with suc­cess, who won’t bow to for­eign dic­ta­tors, who is pro-mil­i­tary and val­ues law enforce­ment, and who is angry for Amer­i­ca and NOT sub­servient to the inter­ests of oth­er nations. Don­ald Trump is such 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.

After receiv­ing an out­pour­ing of sup­port from NBPC locals along the U.S.-Mexican bor­der, the nation­al union over­came its ini­tial reluc­tance and endorsed Trump, note some rank-and-file mem­bers. The NBPC is an affil­i­ate of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Employ­ees (AFGE), which is a mem­ber union of the AFL-CIO — mak­ing the actu­al mechan­ics of an expul­sion of the NBPC some­what dif­fi­cult to parse. Either the AFGE would have to expel the NBPC, or the AFL-CIO would have to expel the AFGE. (The AFL-CIO could pres­sure the AFGE to expel the bor­der patrol agents, though the fed­er­a­tion lacks any kind of for­mal mech­a­nism to force the union’s hand to do so.) 

The fun­da­men­tal issue is that the Bor­der Patrol union is con­tra­dict­ing the val­ues and posi­tion of the AFL-CIO,” says Fran­co of Not1More. We think the AFL-CIO can and should do some­thing about that, as it erodes the lead­er­ship they’ve shown on these issues, and it under­mines polit­i­cal posi­tions the fed­er­a­tion has tak­en. Among the mul­ti­ple ways avail­able to the AFL-CIO to respond, stay­ing silent isn’t one of them.”

In June 2015, Trump began his cam­paign by say­ing that Mex­i­co was send­ing peo­ple” who were rapists” and brought drugs” into this coun­try. Not long after, NBPC Local 2455 of Lare­do, Texas, announced it would be host­ing the Repub­li­can can­di­date for a tour of the bor­der. The union’s nation­al lead­er­ship forced the local to can­cel the tour, like­ly because Trump was not yet viewed as a seri­ous con­tender for the nom­i­na­tion. Trump wast­ed no time in say­ing NBPC mem­bers in Lare­do were being silenced.”

Although NBPC locals are not allowed to endorse pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Trump con­tin­ued receiv­ing sup­port from local unions along the bor­der. Stephen Miller, the senior pol­i­cy advis­er for the Trump cam­paign, earned plau­dits from mem­bers after appear­ing on Bre­it­bart radio where he gushed, “[A Trump Admin­is­tra­tion is] going to work close­ly, direct­ly, and inti­mate­ly with the Nation­al Bor­der Patrol Coun­cil to devel­op a bor­der pol­i­cy for this nation” and that the NBPC will nev­er again have a back seat in our nation’s bor­der policy.”

Lind­say Schu­bin­er, a staff with the Cen­ter for New Com­mu­ni­ty (CNC), an anti-racist watch­dog group, says that the Trump endorse­ment by NBPC is unsur­pris­ing, because there is a pat­tern of Nation­al Bor­der Patrol Coun­cil and the orga­nized anti-immi­grant move­ment work­ing togeth­er to push for­ward nativist goals.”

A 2015 report by CNC doc­u­ments col­lu­sion” between NBPC mem­bers and groups work­ing towards anti-immi­grant caus­es. The CNC reports that NBPC mem­bers have leaked infor­ma­tion to anti-immi­grant groups (some of which are con­sid­ered hate groups by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter) for use in their anti-immi­grant cam­paigns. Addi­tion­al­ly, union lead­ers’ tes­ti­mo­ny on bor­der con­trol mir­ror the talk­ing points of these same organizations.

The NBPC is not the only AFL-CIO-affil­i­at­ed union whose actions have raised con­cerns for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. UAW Local 2865, the aca­d­e­m­ic work­ers’ union in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia sys­tem, called on the AFL-CIO to dis­as­so­ci­ate from the Inter­na­tion­al Union of Police Asso­ci­a­tions in July 2015. Bran­don Buchanan told In These Times, It’s a ques­tion of legit­i­ma­cy. Hav­ing [the AFL-CIO] dis­af­fil­i­ate demon­strates that if our union orga­niz­ing is meant to address the inter­ests of work­ers — and black work­ers are includ­ed in that — then these police asso­ci­a­tions are inim­i­cal to those interests.”

In response to the call for police union dis­af­fil­i­a­tion by UAW 2865, Car­men Berke­ley, Human & Women’s Rights Direc­tor at the AFL-CIO, told Buz­zfeed News in Jan­u­ary that they were not in the busi­ness of kick­ing peo­ple out of unions,” explain­ing, There’s a lot of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion that needs to hap­pen between com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and law enforce­ment, and [the AFL-CIO] want to be the bridge that helps them get there.”

Luis Ser­ra­no doesn’t think a call for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion would suf­fice. Ser­ra­no is an immi­grant rights orga­niz­er affil­i­at­ed with Not1More, which helped draft a peti­tion and let­ter to AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Richard Trum­ka call­ing for the NBPC’s disassociation.

I don’t think that’s [the AFL-CIO’s choice to make. Immi­grants should be the ones that are in those con­ver­sa­tions and need those con­ver­sa­tions,” he says. The AFL-CIO did not return a request for comment.

Don­ald Trump has thus far respond­ed to Not1More’s efforts in a state­ment to Bre­it­bart Texas say­ing, I know [the NBPC] will nev­er be intim­i­dat­ed by any bul­lies try­ing to push them out of the AFL-CIO, and I will nev­er back down from sup­port­ing them and fight­ing for them every day. Togeth­er, we will end ille­gal immi­gra­tion and save Amer­i­ca.” (In the same arti­cle, a Bre­it­bart direc­tor is revealed to have received an award from the Lare­do chap­ter of the NBPC for his work in help­ing to defend and bring a voice to Bor­der Patrol agents.”)

Ser­ra­no says that as undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grant, the close rela­tion­ship form­ing between the NBPC and Trump is wor­ri­some.”

We know that these law enforce­ment agen­cies are not account­able, and by endors­ing a racist’s xeno­pho­bic actions, we saw clear­ly what side they are on,” he says, stress­ing that the AFL-CIO needs to act on the NBPC’s endorse­ment. There hasn’t been a bet­ter time [for the AFL-CIO] to dis­play [their] sol­i­dar­i­ty with immi­grants than now.”

This post has been updat­ed to clar­i­fy the NBPC’s rela­tion­ship to the AFGE and the AFL-CIO.

Mario Vasquez is a writer from south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Work­ing In These Times. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @mario_vsqz or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)/*= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, &#’));while ( – j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute(‘data-eeEncEmail_JkRTuBCpnw’))el[j].innerHTML = out;/*]]>*/.
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