The union representing 16,500 Border Patrol agents has endorsed businessman Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Mr. Trump will take on special interests and embrace the ideas of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents rather than listening to the management yes-men who say whatever they are programmed to say. This is a refreshing change that we have not seen before — and may never see again,” the National Border Patrol Council said in a statement posted Wednesday on its website. The endorsement was reported by the Government Executive website.

Since the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, Trump has advocated for stronger border protections. He has also been criticized for comments he has made about illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries, as well as Muslims coming from overseas.

This is the first time the council has separately endorsed a presidential candidate. The council is part of the largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, which has supported President Obama and congressional Democrats.

The endorsement by the law enforcement officers comes at a time when the Trump campaign is being criticized for altercations between his supporters and protesters at his rallies and for comments made by the candidate concerning the violence. It also comes a day after his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with misdemeanor battery by officials in Florida after allegations that he grabbed a reporter by the arm and forcefully pulled her away from Trump.

Trump, however, apparently is so impressive to the council that it is “breaking with our past practice and giving our first-ever endorsement in a presidential primary,” the statement said. “We think it is that important: if we do not secure our borders, American communities will continue to suffer at the hands of gangs, cartels and violent criminals preying on the innocent. The lives and security of the American people are at stake, and the National Border Patrol Council will not sit on the sidelines.”

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