Republican candidate Donald Trump said, incorrectly, during Monday night's presidential debate that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal law enforcement agency, had just endorsed him.
Since government agencies cannot issue endorsements, Mr. Trump was likely referring to the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, a union representing some 5,000 immigration officers, which backed Trump in a campaign announcement Monday morning.
The latest show of support adds to Trump's endorsements from other law enforcement unions, including the National Border Patrol Council, which represents some 16,500 immigration officers, and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 330,000 officers nationwide.
"We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very – I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States," Trump said during the debate.
While the unions have said Trump's agenda seems more attuned than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's to their interests and concerns, some members have warned that individual officers could face more race-related backlash in the field because the police groups to which they belong backed Trump.
"It is probable that the endorsement of Mr. Trump would expose both the union and the individual members to accusations of xenophobia and even racism," Don McDermott, a former supervisor of a Border Patrol anti-smuggling unit in San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times in May. "The reputation of the agency and of every agent is called into question."
The NBPC endorsement decision was made by 11 union leaders.
National ICE Council president Chris Crane said in a written statement that Trump won the union's endorsement by a popular vote in which Mrs. Clinton secured only 5 percent – a sign that immigration officers oppose the Clinton-approved legacy of President Obama.
"Her plan is total amnesty plus open borders," Mr. Crane said, without disclosing the percentage of union members who voted for the Trump endorsement.
"Let us be clear: the non-enforcement agenda of this administration, favored by Secretary Clinton, results in the daily loss of life and victimization of many, to include not only American citizens but also those attempting to immigrate to our country," Crane added.
Trump's growing support from domestic law enforcement bodies coincides with his advocacy for a controversial policing tactic the agencies have been shying away from: stop and frisk. While proponents say the tough-on-crime approach to community policing is necessary to promote safety, opponents say the practice is unconstitutional and results in officers disproportionately targeting minorities.
While Clinton has campaigned on promises of criminal justice reform, calling for an end to "the era of mass incarceration," Trump has focused on projecting his might as the self-styled "law and order" candidate.
Additionally, critics have described the Trump campaign's harsh tone as promoting particularly violent rhetoric, when compared to past presidential elections.
"There is no question that there's more violent and hateful speech," Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic extremism and hate speech, told Politico last month. Rage-filled groups and individuals "are emboldened by this campaign and its rhetoric," she said.