President Trump listens as Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, speaks at a press conference Thursday.

President Trump listens as Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, speaks at a press conference Thursday. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Trump Brings Federal Employee Union to White House to Make Case for Shutdown

Union officials say temporarily forgoing pay is small price to pay for a wall.

President Trump on Thursday afternoon called an impromptu press conference to trot out unexpected guests: leaders from a federal employee union.

The top officials of the National Border Patrol Council, a division of the American Federation of Government Employees, addressed reporters at the White House to discuss their support for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump said he was meeting with the union representatives and decided they should “go out and speak to the press.”

Brandon Judd, NBPC president, said in his 21 years of experience he has seen first hand that walls are effective.

“Anywhere that you look that we have built walls, they have worked,” Judd said. “They have been an absolute necessity for Border Patrol agents in supporting the border.”

The statements came as somewhat of a departure from Judd’s previous remarks on the subject, telling Government Executive last year that walls were only necessary as a “force multiplier” in certain areas. He noted the importance of using resources more effectively, and praised Trump for his willingness to recognize that “he doesn’t know everything.”

Art del Cueto, the union division's vice president, said on Thursday Border Patrol agents support Trump’s political strategy despite it putting them at risk of facing delayed paychecks.

“We are all affected by the shutdown,” de Cueto said. “We have skin in the game.”

The officials said many federal employees support the shutdown because they support the wall. A recent Government Executive survey found that just 22 percent of federal workers overall support the shutdown. Only 30 percent support a wall, and 35 percent of those individuals do not support the shutdown as a means to secure funding for it.

The council endorsed Trump prior to the 2016 election, saying he would “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.”

“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 National Border Patrol Council—which represents more than 16,000 employees—and the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council were the only federal employee unions to endorse Trump in the 2016 election. Both are subsidiaries of AFGE, which endorsed Hillary Clinton and has repeatedly spoken out against the shutdown. 

Sign up for GovExec newsletters and alerts and download our app to stay informed.