Far be it from me to suggest that any American ought to be penalized for his or her choice of presidential candidate. One of the many things that make this democracy worth fighting to preserve is its premise of one person, one vote — a radical notion that gives the poorest citizen the same franchise as the wealthiest.
Furthermore, the secret ballot is designed to protect that fundamental right from bribery or coercion, intimidation or blackmail. You get to go into the voting booth and choose whoever you believe will best represent the national interest — and your own. You don’t have to worry about losing your job or your home or your livelihood because of the choice you’ve made.
Nevertheless, I have to wonder about the 16,500 members of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that has endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump. Its members are federal law enforcement agents, charged with securing the country’s borders in a manner that respects the rights of those it may need to apprehend. Border Patrol agents should be evenhanded, prudent and circumspect, unflagging in upholding basic human rights.
But Trump hasn’t shown even a simple decency toward those who have entered the country illegally, especially Mexicans. Last June, he announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in a speech laced with stunning bigotry.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said.
Since then, the real estate mogul has only amped up the racism. He insists that he would build a wall on our southern border — forcing Mexico to pay for it — and he’d ban entry to all Muslims. Further, he has said, he’d round up the estimated 11 million undocumented workers already here and deport them. That’s not only imprudent, but it’s also irrational.
Yet, the Border Patrol union is so impressed with Trump that it has chosen to, well, trumpet its endorsement, breaking with union history in its first-ever official support for a presidential candidate during the primaries.
“We need a person in the White House who doesn’t fear the media, who doesn’t embrace political correctness … 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. Donald Trump is such a man,” the union said in a statement.
It’s not unusual for law enforcement officers to lean to the right; they often support Republican political candidates. But the union’s statement endorsing Trump is a hodgepodge of anti-Obama, ultra-right-wing memes shot through with a healthy dose of paranoia.
Claiming its members protect the country in “an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs,” they paint President Obama’s tenure as a mistake. “America has already tried a young, articulate freshman senator who never created a job as an attorney and under whose watch criminal cartels have been given the freest border reign ever known,” the statement says. Really? These people represent federal law enforcement?
That Trump has tapped into a deep reserve of xenophobia among the Republican base is no great surprise; a GOP establishment that is now panicked by his rise spent years pandering to that xenophobia. But it is surprising that a union representing more than 75 percent of the nation’s Border Patrol agents has gone into league with that base, unveiling, in the process, a dangerous hostility toward Mexicans that hardly befits the agents’ status as law enforcement representatives. Their endorsement will only undermine confidence in their ability to carry out their duties fairly.
In 2011, an Arizona-based human rights organization, No More Deaths, published a report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” alleging systematic abuse of migrants and detainees by Border Patrol agents. Further, activists with No More Deaths contend that the Homeland Security hierarchy ignores or whitewashes those abuses.
With its endorsement of Donald Trump, the National Border Patrol Council has simply given those claims even more credibility.
(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at email@example.com.)
Photo: A U.S. border patrol officer sits in his vehicle along the border with Mexico near San Ysidro, California February 25, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake