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Border Patrol Union's Big Bend Chapter calls for Boycott of Alpine Business


Update Wednesday, May 21: 

We spoke with Tom Cochran, owner of Big Bend Screen Printing in Alpine, who says that although he understands the local union's actions are independent of the Border Patrol as a government entity, the public doesn't necessarily understand the difference.

"They're trying to invoke the name of the US government to make a local business look bad," Cochran tells KRTS. "I have to explain the difference to people."

Cochran says since the news of Local 2509's vote to boycott his business, he's spoken with multiple people who at first assume the agency was directly involved.

Meanwhile, he says the boycott hasn't yet hurt his business, and he's actually seen the opposite effect.

"I'm doing ten times the normal volume," he says, "it worked out pretty well for me in the end."

Cochran says "approximately zero percent" of his business comes from Border Patrol agents in the community, but he's still upset about how the boycott has effected his reputation.

"I was walking down the street the other day, and a guy pulled over and flipped me the bird," he says, "it makes it out to look like I'm some kind of anti-law enforcement crusader, which I'm not."

Perhaps most concerning to Cochran is what he sees as the union's claims that he made "libelous comments" when discussing a recent DEA raid in Alpine on social media, but he claims he's spoken with attorneys who don't see a legal basis for the accusation.

Original Post:

A local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council recently voted to boycott the screen-printing business owned by Alpine resident Tom Cochran after alleging that Cochran distributed "misleading information" and "misleading photographs" from a DEA raid on the Purple Zone in Alpine earlier this month.

The raid was part of a nationwide law enforcement effort called  Project Synergy II aimed at suspected distributors of synthetic drugs.

According to a statement released on the Big Bend Local 2509's Facebook page, members at the chapter's monthly meeting voted to approve the boycott of Big Bend Screen Printing.

The statement calls for other members of local law enforcement to join in the boycott, and refers to Cochran as a "purveyor of misinformation."

An emailed statement from Lee Smith, the Union Steward for Local 2509, says the chapter "fully supports Mr. Cochran and the exercise of his right to free speech," but says "that does not afford him the right to libelous comments."

Smith says the idea for the boycott and the vote came from individual chapter members, and that chapter leadership supported them in the decision.

Officials with US Customs & Border Protection - the Border Patrol's parent agency - tell KRTS any actions or opinions expressed by Local 2509 don't necessarily reflect those of CBP itself, as the union and the government agency are independent entities.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.