At last night’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton apparently got under Donald Trump’s skin when she brought up a letter signed by 50 Republican national security experts who said that Trump would be “the most reckless President in American history.” Trump responded:
I do want to say that I was just endorsed—and more are coming next week—it will be over 200 admirals, many of them here—admirals and generals endorsed me to lead this country. That just happened, and many more are coming. And I’m very proud of it.
In addition, I was just endorsed by ICE. They’ve never endorsed anybody before on immigration. I was just endorsed by ICE. I was just recently endorsed—16,500 Border Patrol agents.
Trump’s boast of military endorsers seems to be a reference to a letter in support of his candidacy signed by 88 retired generals and admirals. The list contained no “major names,” but did include such activists asJerry Boykin. Boykin, who was repeatedly criticized by President George W. Bush for giving speeches framing the fight against terrorism as a holy war between Christianity and Islam, now has a platform for his vicious anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric as a top official at the Family Research Council.
The immigration allies Trump mentioned are similarly troubling. Trump was clearly not, as he claimed, endorsed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a federal agency that cannot endorse candidates. He was probably referring instead to his endorsement that morning from the National ICE Council, a union the represents somewhere between 5,000 and 7,600 of the agency’s 20,000 employees. The other endorsement he boasted of was that of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), a union for border patrol officers.
As the Center for New Community has documented, both the National ICE Council and the NBPC have close ties to the organized anti-immigrant movement. “Instead of fulfilling organized labor’s traditional role of advocating for respectable wages and working conditions, leaders of these particular unions appear more focused on coordinating with special interest groups in the Beltway to advance anti-immigrant policy goals,” the Center wrote in a recent report.
The Center explains how the leadership of the National ICE Council collaborated with leading anti-immigrant groups to challenge President Obama’s DACA order in the courts and speak out against it in public:
In August 2012, shortly after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was announced, but before it was enacted, ten ICE agents filed a lawsuit against then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and the directors of ICE and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit was Christopher Crane, President of the National ICE Council. In anticipation of President Obama announcing the DACA program, the leaders of the anti-immigrant movement began exploring ways to counter the program by falsely arguing that DACA represented an unconstitutional act of executive overreach. In order to mount a legal challenge against the program, however, the leaders of that movement needed to recruit a plaintiff who could credibly claim injury and be granted legal standing in a court of law.
Chris Crane was their man.
Crane v. Napolitano was initially dismissed on a legal technicality, and then in a separate ruling on April 7, 2015 the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals once again dismissed Crane and his colleagues’ case. Despite this, the lawsuit allowed anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA to construct a platform from which Crane could act as a prominent spokesperson, helping to advance the anti-immigrant movement’s targeting of DACA. NumbersUSA announced that it would cover all legal fees incurred for the duration of the suit, and the anti-immigrant movement’s most prominent attorney, Kris Kobach, was recruited to represent Crane and his colleagues. …
In announcing the National ICE Council’s endorsement of Trump, Crane cited the Republican candidate’s support for “the canceling of executive amnesty and non-enforcement directives”—in other words, DACA and DAPA.
The border patrol officers’ group has had similar collaboration with anti-immigrant groups. That includes, according to the Center for New Community, a California official with the union helping to tip off the extremist anti-immigrant activists who in the summer of 2014 physically blocked busses of Central Americans fleeing violence who were being brought to a border patrol facility.