Members of the U.S. Border Patrol union in El Paso on Tuesday will ask their union local to disavow the National Border Patrol Council’s endorsement of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
More than 20 elected officials, education groups and community leaders in El Paso and southern New Mexico are supporting the move by some members of Local 1929 to reject the union’s national endorsement of Trump and take a neutral stance in the presidential election. The issue will be raised at Local 1929’s regularly scheduled membership meeting on Tuesday.
Organizers of the effort declined to comment, but the El Paso Times obtained several letters from El Paso and New Mexico community leaders that were gathered in support of the move to have Local 1929 distance itself from the Trump endorsement. The local represents about 1,700 agents – about 10 percent of the union’s total membership – in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which covers far West Texas and all of New Mexico.
“We do not believe this endorsement reflect the values of the Border Patrol agents that work in this region,” said the letter signed by multiple El Paso elected officials, including Mayor Oscar Leeser, County Judge Veronica Escobar and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. “One of the reasons that El Paso is the safest city in the United States is because of the trust developed between law enforcement and the El Paso community.”
Local 1929 officials received similar letters from several New Mexico leaders, including state Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, and former Las Cruces City Councilor Nathan Small.
The endorsement of Trump, who has made controversial proposals and inflammatory comments about women, Muslims and Mexicans, damages the trust that the Border Patrol has worked years to build in El Paso and other border communities, the regional leaders said.
The national spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, Shawn Moran, disputed the contention by area leaders that the Trump endorsement will damage relationships between the Border Patrol and border communities.
“We have all invested a lot of time and energy into our community outreach efforts. However, we must remember that our primary responsibility is to protect the border,” he said.
“We know that our approach differs from some of our more liberal colleagues and that may cause friction. I do not believe this friction over our endorsement is enough to jeopardize these efforts. However, if these collaborations were to break down over this endorsement, which I hope they will not, it will demonstrate that they were not sustainable in the first place.”
Moran said the union used an open process in its endorsement, though he didn’t directly answer a question from the El Paso Times about how input was solicited from members.
“Some may disagree with the decision and that is their right to do so. However, they are wrong to say that this was a closed process,” Moran said. “The National Border Patrol Council, to its credit, created a very inclusive process and reached out to the leadership of each local to get their opinions, and answer any concerns before they made this historic decision. No one took this responsibility lightly.”
Among those signing letters supporting concerns of Local 1929 members over the endorsement were EEl Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, District Attorney Jaime Esparza and state Sen. José Rodríguezíguez. The letter also included signatures from a majority of City Council, county Commissioners Court and the El Paso legislative delegation.
“Very often decisions are made about the U.S.-Mexico border in Washington that don’t reflect the values and experience of the people who actually live here,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to make sure that the outstanding agents in El Paso, many of them originally from this binational community, have a chance to make their voices heard on issues that they know better than anyone else.”
Backing Trump was the first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate by the National Border Patrol Council, which said it represents 16,500 agents across the nation.
The March 30 endorsement by the National Border Patrol Council described Trump as “bold and outspoken” who “doesn’t embrace political correctness” and that Trump would help “finally secure the border of the United States of America, before it is too late.”
Susie Byrd, a member of the El Paso Independent School District board and a former member of the El Paso City Council, said she was approached by Border Patrol agents concerned about the Trump endorsement.
She helped organize support for the agents, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“They are not asking for a particular endorsement,” Byrd said. “They just feel this particular endorsement is very harmful to their work here in El Paso.
“The fact that Trump has denigrated immigrants and essentially made them the enemy and called them rapists and called them murderers really gets in the way of a law enforcement relationship with that group,” Byrd said.
The Trump endorsement is a reminder of strained relations in years past between the Border Patrol and residents, Byrd said.
“I think a lot of great work has been done in the past decade to build a much more positive working relationship with the Border Patrol,” Byrd said.
“Instead of Border Patrol agents roaming the halls of Bowie High School, you really see that very troubled history behind us,” Byrd said. “I think you have the foundation for an important relationship here in El Paso.”
El Paso officials said that relations between the community and the Border Patrol have improved over the years. The Border Patrol has a dialogue with immigrants advocacy groups, agents regularly speak to students in schools and give Christmas gifts to children in low-income areas.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said in a letter to Local 1929 that the immigrants advocacy group has an developed an “excellent relationship”with the Border Patrol that is threatened by the union’s endorsement.
“This is a relationship that has built trust between the Border Patrol and the community that makes law enforcement easier and the entire community safer,” Garcia stated. “It is a relationship we value and wish to maintain. But this relationship is threatened by decisions to endorse candidates that embrace violent and extreme politics, and which complete ignores the reality of our border communities.”
New Mexico state Rep. McCamley said he was saddened when the National Border Patrol Council endorsed Trump because he feels the fiery rhetoric and proposals of the billionaire TV personality are harmful.
“I think there is a real danger to the local economy, and that is true for Texas and New Mexico, if Trump is elected,” McCamley said.
Mexican business, government and civic leaders have said that Trump’s rhetoric does not help the trade, manufacturing, education and cultural relationships between both nations, McCamley said.
“I think its hard unless you live here (in the border region) to know what is going on and see the benefits,” McCamley said. “It think it’s very easy when you live away from the border and depersonalize the situation. Here we understand that people in Mexico are people and it’s easier to treat people with respect and dignity when you see that they are people like we are.”
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102;firstname.lastname@example.org; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
Against Trump endorsement
El Paso and southern New Mexico officials, community leaders and organizations who signed letter expressing support efforts by members of the National Border Patrol Council Local 1929 to disavow the union’s endorsement of Donald Trump.
• Texas state Sen. José Rodríguez
• El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar
• El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza
• El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal
• El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles
• U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso
• El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser
• San Elizario Mayor Maya Sanchez
• Texas state Rep. Joe Moody
• Texas state Rep. César Blanco
• Texas state Rep. Mary González
• Texas state Rep.-elect Evalina “Lina” Ortega
• N.M. state Rep. Bill McCamley
• El Paso County Commissioner David Stout
• El Paso County Commissioner Vince Perez
• El Paso city Rep. Peter Svarzbein
• El Paso city Rep. Claudia Ordaz
• El Paso city Rep. Lily Limón
• El Paso city Rep. Carl Robinson
• Former Las Cruces City Councilor Nathan P. Small.
• El Paso Independent School District Trustee Susie Byrd
• Border Network for Human Rights
• National Education Association New Mexico
• American Federation of Teachers
• Texas American Federation of Teachers
• American Federation of Teachers New Mexico
• Badass Teachers Association