Labor Union's Donald Trump Endorsement Draws Fire From Immigration Activists

They want the AFL-CIO to kick the union out of its labor federation. But it's not that easy.
Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

A prominent immigrants rights group is asking the AFL-CIO labor federation to expel a member union that represents border patrol agents after it endorsed Donald Trump for president.

The National Border Patrol Council praised the Republican candidate's hardline immigration stance when it announced its support on Wednesday. That, in turn, prompted the group Not1More, which seeks an end to deportations, to appeal to the AFL-CIO to boot the union from its ranks.

The group launched a petition on Wednesday. In a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, it said the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 16,000 agents, is undermining the union federation's progressive advocacy on immigration reform:

Throughout your tenure, the Border Patrol union has countered the federation’s mission of achieving immigration reform and protecting the rights of all workers. Instead it has protected abuse of power and sought to prevent justice in multiple cases of violence and wrong-doing. Now it has gone further by endorsing the racist and xenophobic campaign of Donald Trump which not only promises mass deportation but mass destruction of the broader labor movement and the values it’s built upon.

Not1More and the AFL-CIO are allies in a way in the fight against the Obama administration's deportation of undocumented immigrants. In 2014, three dozen hunger strikers with Not1More met with Trumka at the labor federation's headquarters, where he praised them for "calling attention to this untenable, unacceptable situation."

The AFL-CIO's increasingly progressive stance on issues like immigration and criminal justice doesn't necessarily jibe with all unions, particularly those representing workers in law enforcement who oppose reform. Liberal unions have similarly called on the labor federation to terminate the membership of the International Union of Police Associations, on the grounds that it defends police brutality.

But cutting off a member union from the AFL-CIO isn't a simple matter, even if its politics conflict with those of the labor federation. The National Border Patrol Council is a smaller part of the American Federation of Government Employees, a major national union that represents federal workers. AFGE itself is a member of the AFL-CIO, and it's far more liberal than its council of border patrol agents, having endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in December.

It isn't clear whether the AFL-CIO could expel the National Border Patrol Council without also expelling AFGE as a whole.

There's also the much larger question of whether a labor federation should be in the business of exiling member unions because of their politics. Border patrol agents are workers, too, and a basic tenet of the labor movement is that all workers deserve a right to representation on the job. The AFL-CIO could publicly condemn a member union's politics without necessarily banishing them from the country's most powerful labor federation.

An AFL-CIO spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the call to drop the border patrol union.

For its own part, the border patrol union has made it abundantly clear that it is against the larger federation's support for undocumented workers. On its website, the union says it "opposes all efforts by AFL-CIO to aid and support illegal aliens working illegally within the United States. Instead of focusing on increasing their per capita and membership through illegal aliens, the AFL-CIO should firmly oppose illegal immigration and instead support American workers."

Trump has made xenophobic appeals to supporters ever since launching his campaign in June. He has advocated for banning Muslims from entering the United States, and has called undocumented Mexican immigrants "criminals" and "rapists." He also has encouraged violence at his rallies, much of it directed at minority protesters.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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