President Trump’s hastily called “press conference” on Thursday, in which neither he nor press secretary Sarah Sanders took questions, was less a press conference than a way for Trump to signal a politically helpful message, reports Vox.com. That message, delivered by Brandon Judd, Art Del Cueto, and Hector Garza of the National Border Patrol Council (the union representing Border Patrol agents) was this: agents are willing to keep the government shut down for as long as it takes to get the money Trump wants for his border wall, even if that means they have to continue working without pay. A public sector union would hardly be expected to make a public appearance urging Congress not to pass a bill that would start paying their salaries again. Judd and other leaders of the National Border Patrol Council aren’t your typical public sector union. They have become, by all appearances, closer allies to Trump than some of his appointed officials.
Generally, unions are expected to advocate for one of two agendas: the bread-and-butter needs of their membership or the health of unions themselves. Indeed, the current wave of anti-union pushback in conservative courts is grounded in the sense that unions are doing too much of the latter and not enough of the former. When it comes to law enforcement unions, that line gets blurry. Unions are supposed to advocate for the safety of their members, so police unions often feel a mandate to oppose anything from restrictions on the use of deadly force to greater transparency around officer misconduct. The federal immigration enforcement unions are law enforcement unions. Instead of seeing immigration enforcement as just a matter of officer safety, crucially, they see it as a matter of officer morale.