Nogales, Arizona - Remarks by Vice President Pence After Touring the U.S.-Mexico Border:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chief.
CHIEF VILLAREAL: Thanks for coming out.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re delighted. And I want to thank the Deputy Commissioner for being here. I want to thank the Chief. I want to thank all the extraordinary men and women of Border Patrol. Thank you for your service.
PARTICIPANT: Thank you, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re with you. The President has made it clear that we’re going to continue to stand with you to give you the resources, to give you the physical barriers you need to do your job. We’re going to continue to call on the Congress, particularly call on the Democrats in Congress, to step up and recognize what you all deal with every day: that these are the men and women that are putting their lives on the line every day in the midst of this unprecedented crisis on our southern border.
I want you all to know that we understand it, we appreciate it. The American people are grateful for what you do each and every day.
But it’s time for Democrats in Congress to step up, work with Republicans, close the loopholes in our border that are driving this crisis — this humanitarian and security crisis — that you all are dealing with each and every day.
I just want to pledge to each and every one of you that we’re going to take the message back from the border. We’re going to carry it back. That it’s time for Congress to act. We know you do your job every day and the American people are grateful.
The President and I are rolling our sleeves up every day to make sure that you have the resources you need, and the barriers you need, and the support that you need.
We’re calling on the Democrats in Congress to recognize that we have an absolute crisis at our southern border. The time has come to work with Republicans to close the loopholes and end the incredible flow of illegal immigration that is burdening our system today.
And it is not just a crisis of illegal immigration; it is a crisis of national security. Because as the Chief explained to me, as all of you know — as you deploy to deal with people coming across the border in large groups, here and all across our southern border, more than 4,000 this last Tuesday — the reality is that drug cartels, criminal organizations use the vulnerability of our border and the deployment of our personnel as a way to bring dangerous individuals and drugs into our country.
So I just want you to know we get it, and we’re here to say it’s time that Congress got it. It’s time that Congress got to work and did their job.
Now, we wouldn’t be able to do this without what you do every day, but I have to tell you the President and I couldn’t be more grateful for state leaders like Governor Doug Ducey. And, Governor, I want to thank you for the way that you’ve stood up for border security. I want to thank you for the way you’ve been a partner with this administration. And these are your constituents here in the Tucson Sector and the Yuma Sector. And I want to thank you for your strong stand and welcome you to make it work.
GOVERNOR DUCEY: Well, I want to say thank you, Mr. Vice President, for coming to Arizona, for coming to the border and seeing the situation that’s happening on the ground. I want to say thanks to the President for his commitment to border security and helping people understand that this is national security.
I also want to say thank you to the brave women and women of our Customs and Border Patrol, our border agents. Chief, thank you for the briefing today.
CHIEF VILLAREAL: Yes, sir.
GOVERNOR DUCEY: And we all need to call on Congress to close these loopholes. This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is an issue of public safety, border security, and national security, and not just for Arizona, but for the entire country. The drug cartels, the human smuggling, the child sex trafficking, the drug epidemic that’s happening with fentanyl and heroin and methamphetamine.
I’m proud of so much of what’s happening in Arizona. I’m not proud that this dangerous poison is coming across our southern border. So I join you and the President in calling on Congress to quit playing games, to close these loopholes, and to act.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor. Thank you so much for your support. And that’s our message. But I want you to know that your courage and your example every day is recognized by the American people. From the President all across this country, we appreciate what you do. We appreciate what your families do.
That’s why the President took the strong stand in the month of January to get you the resources you need to build a wall. And we know that walls work. You all know that better than anybody else. You got your additional resources to deal with the ports of entry and other infrastructure and support for additional personnel.
But while we heard on many on Capitol Hill say that this was a manufactured crisis over the last six months, the reality is, today, that literally tens of thousands are making their way from Central America and putting an unprecedented burden on our system that represents both a humanitarian and a security crisis.
And I want to promise all of you we’re going to go back, we’re going to report about your work here today, but we’re going to say that you’re doing your job; the President is doing his job. It’s time the Democrats in Congress did their job and came together with Republicans, closed the loopholes that are driving this humanitarian and security crisis at our border. And that’s my promise to each and every one of you. Okay?
Any questions? (Applause.)
PARTICIPANT: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Press, got any questions?
Q I have a question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q In the last week, there’s been some talk about restarting family separations at the border. Could you help clarify what’s happening with that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that President Trump made it clear that we’re not considering restarting family separation. What we’re doing is calling on Congress to do their job.
What’s happening today — and these Border Patrol agents see it every day — is that drug cartels and human traffickers, principally in Central America, are taking cash in exchange for taking vulnerable families — a vast majority of which is now this migration crisis — vulnerable families up the peninsula, the long and dangerous journey to enter our country illegally.
They’re doing it because of our porous border and because of the loopholes in our laws. And the reality is the numbers speak for themselves. Literally hundreds of thousands — more than 100,000 in the month of March — are coming across our border illegally.
I was told, along the southern border, 4,300 people came into our country illegally just this last Tuesday. That is an unprecedented number. They are predominantly families and unaccompanied minors. Our system was never designed to deal with that.
These men and women are here to protect the American people and enforce our laws, enforce our borders. But this enormous flow, this humanitarian crisis being driven by human traffickers, has got to stop.
So what we’ve got to do, we got to continue to build a wall, we got to continue to give these courageous men and women the resources they need to do their job.
But Congress has got to act to close the loopholes that human traffickers use to entice people to make the long and dangerous journey north. And that’s what we’re going to continue to fight for.
Q Can you be more specific about the loopholes — which loopholes you’d like to close? Or are you talking about actually changing laws?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, human traffickers use catch and release, broadly, as a promise to people in Central America that, if they come here, if they can make their way through too often porous borders to come into our country, that they can stay.
The reality is, our asylum system today allows people to be apprehended, detained for a short period of time. The court date is set, and more than 90 percent of the people never show up for their court date. So catch and release has to end.
We also have to have the capacity to amend court decisions that essentially require us to release minors in a set period of time. And we don’t want to do family separation, but amending the Flores decision — the Flores Agreement — through the legislative process to give our border agents and Customs and Border Patrol more time for detention to be able to process people through our system will make a difference.
And lastly, we need to make it possible for us to return individuals, who are apprehended from Central American countries, back to those countries the way we can with Mexico today.
And the truth is that we’re able to apprehend individuals from Mexico, process them, and return them to Mexico. But individuals that come from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala — we can’t return them to their countries without a change in the law.
Those are all the kinds of things. But Congress knows what needs to be done. It’s just Democrats in Congress have got to step up and be willing to do it. And it all begins by recognizing that we have a crisis on our southern border.
And so we’re going to go back, we’re going to continue to work, but with members of both political parties and leaders of both political parties, until we close these loopholes and end the ability of human traffickers to entice people with the promise of coming into our country illegally and vanishing into the United States. That’s the system we have today. That’s a broken system, and it’s what’s driving the crisis at our border.
And make no mistake about it: As these families migrate north — what the Deputy Commissioner said, what the Chief said, what Border Patrol agents point out to me is — as these agents deploy to a section of the border to deal with caravans coming north, or families and unaccompanied minors in other areas of the border, we have dangerous individuals and more drugs that are pouring into the United States.
So this is humanitarian crisis but it’s also a national security crisis. And the President and I are absolutely determined, with the tenacity that President Trump showed this last January to stand firm until this Congress closes the loopholes and ends the magnet of our broken asylum system in this country for human traffickers to exploit and take advantage of families.