Donald Trump’s executive order barring nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from travel to the United States has outraged many Americans, and fostered ill-will across the globe, but one group, at least, is delighted: the nation’s deportation officers and border patrol agents.
Two unions, representing more than 21,000 immigration officers, praised Trump’s action on Saturday night, shortly after federal judges had ordered a halt to the deportation of refugees, tourists and legal permanent residents detained at airports nationwide.
“As representatives of the nation’s frontline immigration officers and agents responsible for enforcing our laws and protecting our borders, we fully support and appreciate President Trump’s swift and decisive action to keep the American people safe and allow law enforcement to do its job,” the National Border Patrol Council and the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council said in a joint statement.
“We applaud the three executive orders he has issued to date,” the unions added, in reference to Trump’s travel ban as well as his orders to construct a wall along the Mexican border and hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 additional immigration officers. “Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions reported.
The political leanings of the unions, which both endorsed Trump during his campaign for the presidency, might help explain the extreme reluctance of immigration officers at the nation’s airports to comply with court orders requiring them to give detained travelers access to legal counsel.
Immigration officers at Dulles International Airport in Washington even refused to allow four members of Congress into the area where the detainees were being held on Sunday.
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) January 29, 2017
We have a constitutional crisis today. Four Members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) January 29, 2017
— Yeganeh Torbati (@yjtorbati) January 29, 2017
There is little doubt about the extremely conservative politics of Chris Crane, a federal officer who leads the union that represents most deportation agents, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council. A string of news articles praising him on his union’s website come almost entirely from one source: Breitbart, the conservative website popular with white nationalists.
He is also a close ally of Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican now in line to be Attorney General. In 2012, Sessions brought Crane to a news conference so that he could denounce then-President Barack Obama’s policy of deferred action for childhood arrivals, which protected undocumented residents who came to the United States as children from deportation and allowed them to apply for work permits.
“It really has been a roller-coaster for officers out in the field,” Crane told reporters, describing what he called chaos resulting from fast-paced immigration policy shifts by the Obama administration. “Whether it’s the new deferred action policy or the prosecutorial discretion policy, the administration can’t just put a policy on paper and expect it to work effectively in the field.”
Sessions, who called Crane “an American hero,” presented him to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013 as a star witness against immigration reform. That same year, Sessions also helped to circulate a letter to Congress from Crane in which he argued that President Obama’s orders had prevented the deportation of undocumented rapists and drug dealers.
Last February, Crane even took on the role of attack dog for Trump during the Republican primaries, lambasting his rival, Senator Marco Rubio, for supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents. A Breitbart article praising Crane for his attack on Rubio, now featured on his union’s website, was written by Julia Hahn, who left Breitbart last week to work at the White House for Steve Bannon, Trump’s powerful chief strategist.