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US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas, March 6, 2015.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas, March 6, 2015.

Immigrant rights organizations are accusing federal agents and their unions of colluding with groups that advocate restricting immigration in order to sway America’s national debate on undocumented workers and immigration reform.

In a report issued Tuesday, the Center for New Community alleges some union officials and agents of the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement violate their duty to impartially enforce the law by working hand-in-hand with immigration opponents.

In doing so, the report says they “lend an underserved credibility to the organized anti-immigrant movement and, dangerously, assist its efforts to advocate for policies that malign immigrant communities and obstruct future immigration.”

“Should police be setting policy in a democracy?” asked Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in a teleconference highlighting the report’s release. “That seems absolutely antithetical to the basic ideas of democracy. Police carry out public policy in a democracy, they do not make it. We are not East Germany, we are not a country run by the Stasi [secret police].”

Leak allegations

The report alleges multiple instances of federal agents and their unions leaking information to immigration opponents, and even appearing at their private events - practices that “call into question the ability of some to uphold their responsibility as stewards of the country’s immigration system.”

As an example, the report points to a recent Twitter posting by the Border Patrol union thanking two of its agents for providing a “border tour” to an advocacy group and “showing the truth on the border.”

The U.S. Border Patrol declined to comment on the report, and the union did not respond to a VOA request for comment.

Others were eager to speak out, including one of the advocacy groups accused of collusion, the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which urges more-restrictive U.S. immigration policies.

CIS director Mark Krikorian scoffed at the report’s allegations. Far from denying contact with law enforcement officers, he defended agents’ actions as a well-intentioned check on what he sees as the Obama administration’s information blackout on illegal immigration.

“They are performing an important function in preventing this administration’s obsessive secrecy from stopping information getting out into the public that people need to know,” said Krikorian.

“The Nixonian pathology that permeates this administration causes them to prevent the release of public information. So we not only don’t apologize, but we are proud of the fact that we are able to get information that ought to be publicly available out into the public,” he said.

Charges of politicizing issue

As for taking sides in the immigration debate, Krikorian said it is the White House that has aligned itself with immigrant rights groups and attempted to squelch a fact-based national discussion.

“The activist groups complaining about this are proxies for the administration,” he said. “The administration is politicizing immigration information in a way that is outrageous, and all the information that we get is public release. This is information that, in an honest administration, would simply be posted to the Web.”

In the conference call, Potok accused CIS and other groups of thinly-veiled racism and a quest to preserve a mostly-white nation.

Krikorian said the true extremists are those who push for a dismantling of immigration laws and want to punish honest Border Patrol officers.

“At best they are ambivalent about enforcing immigration laws. At worst, they are hostile to them,” said Krikorian. “And therefore, people who insist on fulfilling their oath of office as Border Patrol agents must be exposed and destroyed, if possible.”

The finger-pointing comes at a time when immigration reform legislation is stalled on Capitol Hill and President Barack Obama is attempting to take matters into his own hands via executive orders, some of which are being challenged in court.