Tester invited the Border Patrol Union’s president to the State of the Union. What does that say to Dreamers?  
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At the State of the Union address tonight, dozens of Democratic lawmakers will have Dreamers as their guests to showcase an urgent need to protect immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children. Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court Pence seeks to boost Daines in critical Montana Senate race This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans MORE, a Democrat from Montana, took a different approach. He invited Brandon Judd, a Montana native who is president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Tester is a Democrat in a red state that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE won by more than 20 points, and he’s up for re-election. But his decision to invite Judd, who has a track record of praising President Trump’s xenophobic policies and discounting abuses committed by Border Patrol agents, is an affront to the many Dreamers who will be present tonight. Tester could have invited others to reflect American values of inclusiveness and fair treatment, including Montana DACA recipients, families of CBP abuse victims like those recently featured in a 20/20 investigation, or Temporary Protected Status employees from El Salvador who cook and clean at the Senate but have been designated for deportation.


This is an extraordinarily bleak time for immigration enforcement, one pervaded by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security stoking purposeful fear in women, men, and children who contribute to their communities across the country. When armed agents raided 7-Eleven stores, interrogated bus passengers from Maine to Florida, and guarded a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy’s hospital room after surgery, they implement a philosophy and agenda to increase the misery in immigrants’ lives. There’s now a culture of fear. These types of enforcement scare immigrants and their children away from accessing basic services like health care and education. And even discourage those needing refuge, such as asylum-seekers; Judd last year attributed fewer border apprehensions “to fear among immigrants of the new Trump administration policies….‘They’re heading in the right direction,’” he said.     

Judd wasted no time after Friday’s invitation to reinforce his support for Trump’s $25 billion wall on “Fox and Friends,” adding that Trump’s immigration stances come from the “brilliance of a businessman.” Trump tweeted his gratitude soon after. Yet Trump’s wasteful, harmful wall that can only be built by despoiling the environment, waiving dozens of other protective statutes, and seizing private property is a foolish obsession that stands in the way of protecting Dreamers. Sen. Tester, admirably, opposes it as do 60 percent of voters.

Judd used another recent Fox appearance to praise Trump for leading “fearlessly” unlike former President Obama. He claimed that Trump’s Muslim ban “would have prior to 9-11, most likely would have caught those people that took down the Trade Towers and would have stopped that,” despite a map on the screen showing that none of the 9-11 perpetrators’ home countries is singled out by that edict.

Judd’s prominence as a Trump courtier is no coincidence. The NBPC, breaking with tradition, endorsed candidate Trump early on in an announcement filled with falsehoods.  In return, one of the new administration’s first acts was to force out Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan, a former FBI Assistant Director whom the NBPC resented as the first-ever outsider to lead the Patrol, with fresh ideas about improving its culture and oversight.

Objecting to Tester inviting the NBPC’s president does not paint all Border Patrol agents with a too-broad brush. Agents’ acts of heroism deserve to be honored – especially at a time when migrant deaths are tragically increasing despite low apprehension levels not seen for decades. Notably, some Border Patrol agents also do not belong to the NBPC, and at least one union local almost rescinded its Trump endorsement.

Union leadership, however, has a pattern of silence when troubling, serial problems occur in Border Patrol ranks including excessive force, involvement with white-supremacist militias, and the destruction of water jugs and other humanitarian aid by agents. Rather than encouraging humane enforcement and 21st century policing reforms at one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, the NBPC has too often used a thin green line to shield wrongdoing, like when it reflexively denounced as “despicable” a CBP award for de-escalating deadly-force encounters to save lives.

On Feb. 2 of last year, San Diego’s NBPC Local 1613 said in a tweet that appears to have been deleted: “Its #MorninginAmerica w/ new #Leadership having the will to #SecureTheBorder and #EnforceTheLaw #Border Security #BorderPatrol #BuildTheWall.” A Hemingway quotation followed: “Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” No organization should be judged solely based on one such outrage, but Judd and the NBPC’s composite record is filled with silence about far more serious incidents. At a time when Dreamers have little more than a month until this administration’s cruel pledge to terminate status for hundreds of thousands of them, Tester should not have added Brandon Judd to the State of the Union gallery.

Chris Rickerd is a policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union's National Political Advocacy Department.