Unions for the nation’s most powerful federal immigration agencies released a joint statement applauding President Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders banning travel to the United States for citizens of seven majority Muslim countries.
“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the statement from the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) and the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council reads. The NBPC represents 18,000 agents and support personnel assigned to the U.S. Border Patrol; the National ICE Council represents around 7,600 officers, agents, and ICE employees.
Both unions endorsed Trump in the presidential election, with the Border Patrol Council offering its “first-ever endorsement.” Officials from the Border Patrol union have led a misinformation campaign about immigration enforcement, including complaints that they had not received enough political support despite massive funding increases since 2000.
Neither the endorsements nor the response to Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders came as a surprise to undocumented activists and immigration advocates. The line between federal immigration agencies and anti-immigrant hate groups has become increasingly blurred. A 2015 report from the Center for New Community revealed that Border Patrol agents were working with anti-immigrant white nationalists.
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Along with its press releases, the National ICE Council’s website regularly cites articles from Breitbart, a white nationalist website formerly run by Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon.
Meanwhile, Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has reportedly been named chief of staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that oversees Border Patrol. Trump cited FAIR’s anti-immigrant misinformation in his Republican National Convention speech.
Advocates are increasingly concerned about how federal immigration agencies, staffed by anti-immigrant leaders faithfully devoted to Trump, will respond to judicial and legislative attempts to block the president’s executive orders.
The Daily Beast described the scene at Washington Dulles International Airport on Saturday as “the first major Constitutional crisis of the Trump presidency.”
Travelers, including those with U.S. green cards, were detained at airports across the country because of Trump’s executive order. A federal judge on Saturday night granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports.
The federal judge ruled that travelers detained by CBP had a right to see their lawyers. But the agency openly violated the order, refusing to let those detained speak to attorneys. Attorney at Dulles told the Daily Beast it is unprecedented for a government agency like CBP to prevent legal residents from seeing their lawyers.
Agency leaders voicing skepticism about Trump’s anti-immigrant directives could be under fire. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan will step down January 31, according to an announcement last week. The executive board of NBPC called Morgan a “disgrace to the agency” in a November op-ed published on Breitbart.
The board members wrote that Morgan was “worried because he knows that his comments attacking President-elect Trump’s border security policies prior to the election has him in hot water and his position as the chief of the Border Patrol is tenuous at best.”
Rewire reached out to CBP and the National Border Patrol Council about the violation of the federal injunction and to explain why morale has “increased exponentially” since the release of Trump’s executive orders targeting immigrants and Muslims. The agencies did not respond.