Almost exactly one year ago today, July 1, 2014, a small group of anti-immigrant extremists gained media attention for a series of protests at a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, California, that blocked buses transporting Central American families who fled violence.
A group of about 50 protesters, organized by leaders with ties to white nationalist, and extreme far-right groups, stood in the street waving American flags and chanting phrases such as “Go back home!” and “We don’t want you here!” to immigrants aboard the buses.
But, how exactly did these anti-immigrant activists know where these buses were going?
The answer lies in the long-standing relationships between employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the leaders of the organized anti-immigrant movement. The Murrieta protests are only one ugly example.
One organizer of the Murrieta protests told supporters he had received information from “a senior border patrol source in San Diego” in advance of the transfer of the families to the Murrieta facilities .
The newly released Center for New Community report, “Blurring Borders,” examines the extent to which these DHS union leaders have been colluding with the organized anti-immigrant movement–and the impact it has had on the country’s immigration policy.
DHS employees—specifically Border Patrol officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents—are entrusted to carry out the country’s immigration policies as instructed by Congress and the Executive branch. Extending from that trust, agency union leaders from the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) and the National ICE Council have often been called before Congressional hearings and quoted by mainstream media outlets as credible, neutral experts on our country’s immigration system.
As the report details, the reality is much more troubling. Here some examples of their collusion:
- In March 2015, NBPC Local 1613, based in Southern California, thanked two of its current agents (and elected union representatives)—Manny Bayon and Chris Bauder—on Twitter for “showing the truth on the southern border” during a “border tour for CIS (CEnter for Immigration Studies) [sic].” The Center for Immigration Studies, led since 1995 by Mark Krikorian, is the primary research arm of the organized anti-immigrant movement and has an outsized influence on much of the nativist right’s messaging and communications strategy.
- In the summer of 2014, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a documented hate group and flagship organization of the anti-immigrant movement, organized a “fact-finding trip” in July for seven sheriffs from states as far away from the U.S.-Mexico border as Massachusetts and Oregon. Border Patrol officials accommodated FAIR and the sheriffs during their time in McAllen, TX. In a travelogue of sorts published on its official blog, FAIR’s National Field Director Susan Tully wrote, “I am writing from the Border Patrol Station.”
- In July 2014, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Senior Policy Analyst Stephen Steinlight admitted that a recent CIS publication that inspired multiple Congressional inquiries could not have been done “without our ongoing good connections with whistleblowers in agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” And as recently as March 2015, CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan published analysis that she claimed was based on “DHS statistics, which have not been released to the public, but were obtained by the Center [CIS].”
Since this report went to press, the Laredo, Texas, chapter of the National Border Patrol Council honored Breitbart Texas–a far-right media outlet that frequently upholds the work of nativist organizations and activists–and its Managing Director, Brandon Darby, with an appreciation award for their work in “exposing the realities of law enforcement along America’s southern border.” They did this in front of a room packed with more than 150 Border Patrol agents.
Border patrol officers and ICE agents are often the public’s first contact with America’s immigration system, and they shoulder the responsibility of upholding a system of complex and disjointed policies and laws. That’s why the collusion between these leaders in the ICE and Border Patrol unions and the organized anti-immigrant network demonstrated in this report is deeply troubling. Fundamentally, it calls into question the ability of some to uphold their responsibility as stewards of the country’s immigration system. Congress and the media each have a duty to seriously question the expertise and biases of these leaders and spokespeople and what they offer to any serious debate on this country’s immigration policy.