Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional union comment.
The national union that represents more than 16,000 agents of the United States Border Patrol issued its first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate on Wednesday by throwing its support behind Republican Donald Trump.
Lauding Trump as an outsider who bucks political correctness, a National Border Patrol Council spokesperson said in a statement that Trump’s honesty on immigration, though ill-received by some, is what the nation needs to stop the “open borders” mentality of current office holders.
“The fact that people are more upset about Mr. Trump’s tone than about the destruction wrought by open borders tells us everything we need to know about the corruption in Washington,” the statement said. “Our current political establishment has bled this country dry, sees their power evaporating, and isn't listening to voters who do all the heavy lifting.”
Shawn Moran, a council spokesman, said the national office consulted with individual sector unions on the endorsement before the 11-member NBPC board made its decision. Moran declined to say whether the vote was unanimous.
As of 2015, there were about 20,275 Border Patrol agents employed with the agency, according to Customs and Border Protection’s year-end statistics.
About 17,520 work on the country’s southern border, including 3,056 and 1,670 in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Laredo sectors, respectively. About 2,360 are stationed in the El Paso sector.
Trump made immigration an early focal point of his campaign when he made controversial comments about Mexicans being “criminals and rapists”. He’s also promised repeatedly to build a wall on the southern border and force the Mexican government to pay for it.
In its statement, the union agreed that Trump is responsible for igniting a national debate on immigration and keeping the issue fresh.
“Mr. Trump is correct when he says immigration wouldn’t be at the forefront of this presidential campaign if months ago he hadn’t made some bold and necessary statements,” the statement reads. “And when the withering media storm ensued he did not back down one iota.”