Sinema brings Border Patrol union head to State of the Union

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Brandon Judd, the president of the union that represents many Border Patrol agents, will be her guest at this year’s State of Union address.

Judd, the head of the National Border Patrol Council—the union that
represents a large segment of the agency’s 16,500 Border Patrol agents—has been a
staunch supporter of ex-president Donald Trump. But he crossed
party lines earlier this year to endorse Sinema’s border bill, which was released in
February. That bill quickly died when Trump opposed it in order to keep border issues prominent during the election.

On Tuesday, Sinema said she will not run for a second term because Washington D.C. is too dysfunctional. Elected as a Democrat six years ago, Sinema become an independent in 2022. This year, she faced a three-way race against Democrat Ruben Gallego and the winner of the Republican primary where the Trump-allied failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is likely to beat Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

For months, Sinema worked with Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, to negotiate a new immigration bill with the White House. Last year, President Joe Biden sought $105 billion from Congress, including support for Ukraine and Israel, however that funding has been held up over continued negotiations over the border.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released the 400-page bill, which included military aid for Ukraine and Israel, as well as the long-awaited border measures. Meanwhile, Biden pushed Congress to pass the $118.28 billion bipartisan bill.

Judd was one of 13 Arizona officials included in a press release about the bill by Sinema’s office, appearing with Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, former governor and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and well as mayors and supervisors in Yuma, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties. 

Judd praised the Border Act of 2024, arguing it would give Border Patrol agents “authorities codified, in law, that we have not had in the past.”

He noted since January 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection—Border Patrol’s parent agency—has averaged 8,000 apprehensions per day and “the vast majority of these illegal immigrants have been released under a policy known as catch-and-release.”  

This includes Title 42, which allowed Border Patrol to quickly expel people from the U.S. if they traveled through a country with COVID-19 infections, and which helped inflate figures as hundreds of people attempted repeated crossings. Further, apprehension data includes “inadmissibles” or people who arrived at U.S. border crossings and to seek asylum.

The bill, Judd said “will allow us to remove single adults expeditiously and without a lengthy judicial review which historically has required the release of these individuals into the interior of the United States.” 

“This alone will drop illegal border crossings nationwide and will allow our agents to get back to detecting and apprehending those who want to cross our borders illegally and evade apprehension,” Judd said. “While not perfect, the Border Act of 2024 is a step in the right direction and is far better than the current status quo. This is why the National Border Patrol Council endorses this bill and hopes for its quick passage.”

Despite widespread support, the bipartisan package never made it to the Senate floor after House Speaker Mike Johnson declared it “dead on arrival.” 

“At a time when partisan politics rules the landscape, it has been refreshing to be able to work with someone with an independent mindset willing to look out for the best interest of the American people. As it pertains to border security, Krysten Sinema has been that person. She has advocated for border security in all forms whether it be at the Ports of Entry or between,” said Judd in a statement published Thursday by Sinema’s office. “She has listened to the voices of the people doing their best to protect this great nation. I am honored to be invited to the State of the Union by Senator Sinema.”

“I invited Brandon Judd to the State of the Union to remind my colleagues that the chaos at the border continues day in and day out, and states like mine pay the price for Washington’s failure to act,” Sinema said.

Sinema joined with Kelly to urge Congress to provide another $752 million in funding as part of bill for Homeland Security to help Pima County shelter asylum seekers.

Nearly three weeks ago, Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher warned of “homelessness on steroids” and told the Board of Supervisors the county will be forced to stop sheltering asylum seekers by March 31 — on Easter Sunday — after federal funding is exhausted.

Pima County officials have repeatedly told Washington D.C. they need additional funds to cover shelter operations—which cost around $1 million per week to take in as many as 1,000 people arriving each day. However, Congress has so far refused to fund the Shelter and Services Program, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, for this year.

The Border Act of 2024 would have included nearly $1.4 billion to cover SSP.

“Border security and management is a federal government obligation, but Washington has been derelict in this duty for decades, putting the onus on border states and localities to shoulder the burden of the border crisis,” wrote Sinema and Kelly on Feb. 29. “Without this funding, border communities like those in Arizona will continue to be forced to manage a crisis they did not create, and to make impossible choices about whether to provide critical services to residents or manage the fallout of the border crisis.”

Judd and other leaders of the NBPC were early allies of Donald Trump, and endorsed him during the 2016 election—a first for the union that represents thousands of Border Patrol agents. The union endorsed Trump again in 2020 and maintained their strident criticism of President Joe Biden. 

During the 2022 election, Judd and the NBPC held a press conference in Tucson to endorse Blake Masters. Masters would go on to lose against Sen. Mark Kelly.

Meanwhile, Judd has sharpened his reputation as a commentator for conservative media, blasting the Biden administration while repeatedly espousing the  “great replacement” theory. Judd has accused national Democrats of intentionally bringing immigrants into the country in an attempt to skew elections in their favor and replace white Americans.

As USA Today reported in 2022, as part of a Fox News segment, Judd said Biden and other Democrats are “trying to change the demographics of the electorate. That’s what I believe they’re doing.”

“They want to stay in power, and the only way to stay in power is to continue to stay elected,” he said.