This story has been updated with a statement from Donald Trump.
A federal employee union representing more than 16,000 workers on Wednesday became the first such group to endorse Donald Trump for president, breaking from both its own tradition and the support offered by its parent organization.
The National Border Patrol Council gave Trump its first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate, saying the controversial frontrunner has shown the leadership the country needs by shunning political correctness and making border security a centerpiece of his campaign. NBPC is a subsidiary of the American Federation of Government Employees, which in December endorsed Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House.
The council represents all agents in the Border Patrol. Trump has repeatedly referred to the current Southern border as porous like “Swiss cheese,” while famously calling for a wall between the United States and Mexico. In his immigration plan, Trump has said he would triple the number of employees at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also a component of the Homeland Security Department.
“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,” the council wrote in a statement announcing the endorsement. “Donald Trump is such a man.”
The union said Trump would take a ground-up approach rather than bowing to the whims of management.
“Mr. Trump will take on special interests and embrace the ideas of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents rather than listening to the management yes-men who say whatever they are programmed to say,” the group said. “This is a refreshing change that we have not seen before -- and may never see again.”
In a statement of his own, Trump said he was “deeply grateful” for the union’s endorsement, agreeing he could lean on the agents to avoid “political spin from bureaucrats.” The businessman promised to ramp up the resources provided to the agency:
As President, I will work tirelessly with the NBPC and their rank-and-file agents to secure our border once and for all. I will ensure that every rank-and-file officer has the resources, tools and support they need to protect this nation and stop the influx of drugs, gangs and cartel violence. Together, we will save thousands of American lives, millions of American jobs, and billions of American tax dollars.
NBPC called the “open border” America’s greatest threat, and said Trump is the only candidate who can do something about it “before it is too late.”
While the union is the first in federal government to endorse Trump -- or any Republican -- it is not the first time he has received support from feds. NBPC’s Local 2455, which represents BP agents in Laredo, Texas, agreed in July to give the candidate a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border to show him the situation on the ground. The union abruptly pulled out of that agreement, however, after “communicating with members of the NBPC at the national level.”
Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council -- also an AFGE component -- is a Trump supporter who spoke at the candidate’s Alabama rally in February. Trump called the union leader, who has a long history of speaking out on controversial immigration issues, a “national hero.”
Three separate polls taken throughout the 2016 election cycle have shown Trump in the lead among Republican federal employees, with his margin growing in each successive survey. He remains a divisive figure in the federal workforce, however; one in four respondents said in January they would consider leaving federal service if Trump became president.