Trump’s union has long history of discrimination against female Border Patrol agents

I stand by what I documented in 2004 in my first book on the Border Patrol, and earlier in academic papers I presented at national conferences. “The government employees union (NBPC) found mixed, uneven support among agents because it tended to mount its largest battles against relatively insignificant employment issues while ignoring problems that agents faced on a daily basis,” therefore, “…agents had little other recourse than the union in a rigid system that frequently rewarded complacency above all else” ( Maril Patrolling Chaos).

Among those problems the NBPC ignored then, and continues to ignore now, is gender discrimination within its own ranks.

One recent example demonstrating the extent to which the NBPC is willing to ignore the legal rights of its own female agents is Border Patrol Supervisor Armando Gonzalez. Until his incarceration, Agent Gonzalez was a supervisor at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego. For at least 10 months during 2013 and 2014, Agent Gonzalez operated a hidden camera in the floor drain of the station restroom for female Border Patrol agents at the Chula Vista Station. When repeatedly confronted by female agents when they discovered the camera, Gonzalez told them and later law enforcement officials that he placed the hidden camera in the female agents’ restroom to, “…conduct a drug investigation of one of his female employees.”

Gonzalez eventually pled guilty to filming the “unclothed private parts” of at least seven different female agents over a ten month span, videos totaling at least 20 hours in length. According to the FBI, however, there were many other videos which Gonzalez recorded and meticulously catalogued. Moreover, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Stingley of the Southern District Court of California, Gonzalez admitted to having collected and destroyed an unknown larger number of videos before law enforcement agents searched his home (Meredith Hoffman, “Creepy Border Patrol Agent Spies on Female Employees Undressing in Bathroom,” Vice News, 27 March 2015).

According to the U.S. District Attorney, Gonzalez’ hidden camera was in fact in place for at least eighteen months in the women’s restroom at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. Further, Gonzalez, “…spent a lot of time editing, naming and saving the videos” (U.S. Attorney’s Office,Southern District of California, press release, “U.S. border Patrol Supervisor Sentenced to 21 months in prison for placing hidden camera in women’s restroom,” , 14 December 2015).

On 14 December 2015, Gonzalez was sentenced to twenty-one months in prison for crimes against seven female Border Patrol Agents. The presiding judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez, stated that the, “…facts of this case were shocking.”

Crimes against women committed by Agent Armando Gonzalez came to light in the middle of a highly publicized national drive by the CBP to recruit more female agents to its ranks. While CBP agents number more than 20,000, the percentage of female Border Patrol agents has not changed in the last two decades. Although the CBP has been far from transparent in reporting the number of female agents, the percentage of female agents appears to hover around 4 percent to 5 percent. The percentage of female agents in the CBP is far below that of the FBI, DEA, or other similar federal law enforcement agencies.

The CBP has been somewhat successful in recruiting female agents in the past, but it has failed for decades to retain female Border Patrol agents within its ranks. Over the years there have been a number of CBP excuses for its very low percentage of female agents. These excuses, which change from year to year, have never been supported by any substantive facts.

The primary reason that CBP has been unsuccessful in retaining female agents is blatant institutional discrimination based upon gender. This includes a total lack of support for the best interests of these female agents in the work place. The same may be said for the NBPC which, instead of representing the best interests of female agents and providing support and affirmation for the work in which they daily engage, historically ignores them by focusing on a variety of other issues it always defines as more important.

On 30 March 2015, three months after CBP Supervisor Armando Gonzalez was sentenced to prison for the crimes he admitted he committed against seven female agents at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station, NBPC President Brandon Judd announced its endorsement of Trump in the presidential primaries. Since then, the NBPC has repeatedly made clear its enthusiastic support for this candidate.

But what kind of support did the NBPC provide its female union membership during the nine months time span from when female agents at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station went to private attorneys for legal support and Agent Armando Gonzalez, after admitting to his crimes, was sentenced to prison?

There are no NBPC press releases on the NBPC website, or the website of San Diego Local 1613, or the website of the Chula Vista union website which provide any overt signs of support for the seven female agents in this case. Neither are there any NBPC statements on these same Web sites that affirm the legal rights of female agents during this difficult time period or offer any kind of support to female agents as the adjudication of Gonzalez proceeded. In addition, I could find no statements or comments in the public record from the NBPC, Local 1613, or any union representatives at the Chula Vista station which could be understood as supporting the legal rights of the seven female Border Patrol agents or even demonstrating sympathy for their victimization.

Even at the time of the guilty plea and final sentencing of Agent Armando Gonzalez, there are no press releases or public statements on record by the NBPC or its local supporting the seven female agents . Nor are there any NBPC statements of any kind during or after this case showing support for female agents in the Border Patrol.

Since Gonzalez’ sentencing, the NBPC has published statements in support of the following topics: support for the New York Police Department; support for H.R. 399; the union’s position on DACA; a commendation to Congressional membership for visiting the Mexican border; increased funding for CBP; and demands that the murder of Texas agent Javier Vega Jr. be defined as a line of duty fatality. In addition, the NBPC also found time to criticize “some activist groups” for denouncing, “…Border Patrol agents for speaking the truth.”

Finally, three months out from the sentencing of Supervisor Gonzalez, under “Special Reports” the NBPC on its website detailed the testimony of Chris Cabrera. Cabrera, an agent from the Rio Grande Valley sector, was identified in the NBPC as speaking “in behalf of the NBPC” (Testimony of Chris Cabrera before Senate HSGAC Committee, 17 March 2015 ).

The NBPC kept completely silent on the crimes of Agent Gonzalez against seven female agents while choosing to focus on a wide range of other topics including support for Trump. Anything and everything was more important that discussing Agent Gonzalez’ crimes against female agents or supporting and reaffirming the legal rights of female Border Patrol agents in the work place.

In fact, while the NBPC between 13 May 2015 and 23 July 2015 (the NBPC does not date its press releases on its Web site) spoke out in a press release against corruption among Border Patrol agents, it never mentioned discrimination and harassment of female agents.

To its credit, the NBPC website does contain required information, the information is also on the CBP websites, about contacting EEO under the menu titled “Member Resources.”

On Local 1613’s Web site there were no press releases, reports, or other information having to do with the arrest, hearing, or sentencing of Agent Armando Gonzalez. As with the NBPC, it states under “Media Facts” the NBPC position on CBP “Corruption”. It reads, “As long as the Border Patrol continues to place priority on the quantity of recruits rather than the quality of recruits, corruption within the Border Patrol will rise in the future.”

Contact with the President of NBPC Local 1613 did not elicit a response for an interview. Likewise an interview request to the regional public information officer at CBP also did not elicit a response.

A second egregious example of discrimination against female border agents by male border agents, one among others I have carefully documented since 1999, concerns a female Border Patrol agent in another southwestern border state. All Border Patrol sectors and substations do not discriminate at the same rates against female agents; some are much worse than others. This female agent Border Patrol agent wished to remain anonymous because she feared retribution by her male supervisors (Maril, The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border, 2012). This federal law enforcement agent, I call her Agent Nora Munoz, worked out of a large border patrol station where, over the course of more than six years, she was continually harassed and discriminated against based upon her gender. About 4 percent of all the agents at this station were female.

When Agent Nora Munoz complained to her male supervisor about the discrimination she felt was directed towards her based solely on her gender, she was continually told to shut up by her male supervisor. In fact, when Agent Nora Munoz complained to the other four supervisors at her station, all of whom were male, they gave her the same advice. In spite of positive annual evaluations and a work record similar or better than other male Border Patrol agents, Agent Munoz was not promoted in the same fashion as were many of her male peers.

Instead her male supervisors continually told Nora Munoz that she should take a “desk job” at the Border Patrol station. Along with the usual male “jokes” directed towards her in the work place, Agent Munoz was continually given the worst work shifts and assigned vehicles which were inferior to those provided to her male counterparts. A number of other actions by male supervisors-which I documented in detail-were directed towards her for no other reason other than she was a female agent.

Agent Nora Munoz grew so weary of this ongoing abuse and harassment based upon gender that she eventually filed an EEO complaint. While several male agents at the station were supportive of her, others stayed away from her to avoid criticism from male agents including her supervisors. The Judge who read Nora Munoz’s detailed record of the discrimination she had endured ruled in Agent Munoz’s favor. The Judge stated that, “this sector was found to have discriminated against an agent based upon gender.” The Judge further demanded that not only Agent Munoz’s male supervisors take responsibility for their actions, but that the male Deputy Sector Chief and male Sector Chief, both of whom had supported her male supervisors, consider the seriousness of the documented discrimination against this Border Patrol agent.

Further, the Judge’s decision reads: “I am also ordering the Agency (the Border Patrol) to post a notice which I will attach to my written bench decision in public places at the (named) Station and at sector headquarters. The Agency shall maintain the Notices for twelve consecutive months in conspicuous places, including where notices to employees and applicants for employment are customarily posted.”

Where was the NBPC during the many years that Agent Nora Munoz was left alone, systematically marginalized, to face those who discriminated against her? Where are any documents from the NBPC or the CBP that could have affirmed her legal rights and also discouraged future male discrimination against female agents. As documented, two CBP sector spokespersons when questioned about these facts concerning Agent Nora Munoz EEO case actually denied that their sector had ever experienced any EEO complaints from female border patrol agents. “It is not an issue,” I was told. (Maril, The Fence, 191-92).

These two examples are indicative of the NBPC’s lack of support for the rights of female agents over many, many years. Why?

One answer to this question may be found in the career of T. J. Bonner, president of the NBPC from 1989to 2011. In 2012 Bonner retired from his position as president of the NBPC as well as from the CBP. Allegations against Bonner, the president of NBPC for twenty-two years, included: “using union dues” “to visit his mistress in Chicago or attend hockey games,” “conspiracy to commit wire fraud,” and “forfeiture of ill-gotten gains in connection with a scheme to defraud some 14,000 dues-paying union members” (Sarah Grieco, Tony Shin, and Monica Garske, “Ex-Border Patrol Union Leader Misused Funds:Attorney,” 7San Diego, no date).

After being indicted by a federal grand jury on these and a number of other charges, Bonner surrendered to the U.S. Marshal’s office on 20 August 2012.

When the dust settled, Bonner stood accused of making more than 100 NBPC trips to Chicago for the sole purpose of visiting his mistress, “accusations of making fraudulent claims for lost wages,” creating policies which allowed NBPC to award themselves annual salary bonuses, and policies allowing union officials ‘clothing allowances’ of up to $800 per year. Bonner was also accused of collecting more than $100,000 in lost wages (Linda Bentley, “Warrants unsealed for former NBPC president facing felony charges,” Sonoran News, 29 August 2012).

In his defense, Bonner stated that, “I am completely innocent. The charges are groundless. They have been trumped up by a politically bankrupt bureaucracy that has failed to execute its statutory mission. When justice is done, this case will result in my exoneration.”

In February 2014, all charges against Bonner were suddenly dropped. It appears that charges were dropped against the former NBPC only because of, according to the U.S. District Judge, “…the scope of the search warrant.” What agents found and collected as evidence when they searched Bonner’s residence exceeded the legal limits of the warrant.

The agents allegedly seized, in addition to evidence named in the warrant, “…more than four million pornographic images and roughly five billion pages of text” (Abbie Alford, “Former Border Patrol union chief reacts to dropped charges,”, 12 February 2014).  Bonner, president of the NBPC for twenty-two years, did not deny possession of the four million pornographic images or the five billion pages of text.

Bonner accused the government, “…of outrageous misconduct.” He stated that, “what we need is accountability.”

While Bonner is correct in stating that private ownership of pornographic images is not illegal. Neither is owning four million pornographic images illegal along with five billion pages of text. However, Bonner’s ownership of these four million pornographic images and five billion pages of text cannot help but send a very clear message to the female union membership over which  Bonner presided for twenty-two years.

Shawn Moran, who in 2014 became President of the NBPC, said that his union executive board had no comment about Bonner’s case. 

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy stated that, “The grand jury found probable cause that Mr. Bonner had committed the offenses set forth in the indictment.” “From time to time in criminal cases certain evidence is suppressed for legal or technical reasons. We respect the process and the court.” ( Alford,  “Former Border Patrol Union Chief Reacts to Dropped Charges”).

U.S. Attorney Duffy also stated that, “Siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from hard-working fellow Border Patrol agents, many of whom put their lives on the line every day to protect this country, is a particularly troubling form of corruption that must be addressed.” (Carl Horowitz, “Ex-border Patrol Union President indicted for Embezzlement,” National Legal and Policy Center, 24 September 2012).

I could find no statements by the NBPC which expressed their concern for the alleged corruption of the president of their union for twenty-two years. I could find no attempt by the NBPC to explain why, legally or not, Bonner possessed four million pornographic images and five billion pages of text.

Most importantly, I could find no NBPC documents which sought to reaffirm to its female union membership that Bonner’s four million pornographic images and five billion pages of text did not meet the professional standards of any NBPC president.

Finally, the results of an analysis of the participation of female agents in NBPC leadership in NBPC locals strongly suggest that female agents have an insignificant influence in the decisions made by NBPC locals. This analysis is based upon the percentages of female Border Patrol agents currently holding positions in 2016 on the executive boards of union locals or as local representatives. As well, the results of this analysis also suggest that there are very few role models within the NBPC locals for female border patrol agents to emulate or to affirm their legal rights including protection against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

My analysis shows that all presidents of all NBPC locals are male agents (thirteen out of the sixteen locals provided website data that could be analyzed by the public; the NBPC provided no list on their website of the eleven members of their executive committee). The composition of the union executive boards of locals for which data were publically available, not counting the local presidents, was 92 percent male and 8 percent female. The composition of all locals’ “lead stewards” and labor union representatives was also 92 percent male and 8 percent female.

Under both the Bush and Obama administrations leadership of the U.S. Border Patrol has been weak and, in this vacuum of leadership, political opportunists have readily emerged to speak for the NBPC. The recent hiring of an FBI senior executive to lead the U.S. Border Patrol, Assistant Director of the FBI Mark Morgan, may signify a move towards bringing the CBP into the fold of other federal law enforcement agencies characterized by professional and consistent standards and expectations.

For decades the NBPC has consistently failed to protect the rights of its female membership because, as I documented in 2004, the NBPC mounts, “… its largest battles against relatively insignificant employment issues while ignoring problems that agents faced on a daily basis.” One of these very important problems faced by female Border Patrol agents on a daily basis is discrimination in the work place based upon gender.

NBPC’s endorsement of Trump is nothing less than support from the leadership of a labor union that has always been much too busy with other issues to support their own female Border patrol agents when they are discriminated against and harassed in a hostile work environment.

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University, is the author of The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at