Washington, DC - Remarks by Vice President Pence at The Latino Coalition Legislative Summit:
Park Hyatt Hotel - Washington, D.C.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Hector. Thank you for that kind introduction. And join me in thanking Chairman Barreto — (applause) — for so many years of leadership in business and public life. It is an honor to be with you today.
To Alfredo Ortiz, Ambassador Barcena, to all the business leaders and entrepreneurs gathered here today, it’s an honor to join The Latino Coalition, the Job Creators Network, and to say to all of you, buenas tardes — (laughter) — and congratulations on “expanding the power of U.S. Latinos.” (Applause.) It’s great to be at the Latino Coalition’s 2019 Summit.
And as I get started, let me bring greetings from a great champion of Hispanic Americans and a champion of expanding opportunity for all the people of this country. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, it’s great to be back with all of you. It was my privilege to speak at this summit for the first time as Vice President just two short years ago. As gather here today, it’s really remarkable to think about all that we have accomplished with the support of all of you in this room.
As the President himself said at last year’s summit, this administration is “committed to unleashing the full potential of the Latino community by removing government burdens…restoring safety and security to our neighborhoods, and by defending America’s interests so that all…our citizens can prosper.” And that’s exactly what this President and this administration have done over the last two years. (Applause.)
President Trump promised to roll back the heavy hand of government, and last year, our administration actually cut 12 federal regulations for every new federal rule on the book. In fact, this President has already signed more bills cutting back federal red tape than any President in American history. (Applause.)
And like all of you in this room, in this administration, we know small businesses are the engine of the American economy. And that’s why we’ve been working tirelessly to help make it possible for you to invest in your workers and grow your businesses. We’ve made it easier for you to create association health plans. And all told, since taking office, we’ve delivered more than $33 billion in regulatory savings for working families and small-business owners in America. That’s what we call promises made and promise kept. (Applause.)
And finally, as all of you well know, with the support of so many of you in this room and the millions that you represent, before the first year of administration was even done, this President kept his word to the America people when he signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history. (Applause.)
We cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses, and businesses large and small all across this country. We cut the corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to below the average. We eliminated death taxes for nearly every American small-business owner so death is no longer a taxable event in America. (Applause.)
And we gave business owners, like so many of you gathered here at this summit, the ability to deduct 20 percent of your business income, and 100 percent of the cost of your new equipment for the next five years, making it more possible for you to grow your equipment — grow your property, plant, and equipment, and hire more Americans and create more jobs. (Applause.) That’s the difference that having a businessman in the Oval Office is making for Americans.
And the results of this pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda, frankly — I don’t have to tell all of you in this room — it’s been nothing short of remarkable. In just over two years, under the leadership of this President and with all of your support, businesses large and small have created 5.3 million new jobs all across America. (Applause.)
Unemployment is at a 50-year low. And the unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans has reached the lowest level ever recorded in American history. (Applause.) The American Dream is roaring back for every American.
And, in fact, wages for American workers — after years of being stuck in with little or no growth in wages — wages today are rising at the fastest pace that they’ve risen in nearly a decade. And most exciting of all, they’re growing fastest — wages are growing fastest for blue-collar workers, the backbone of the American economy. The forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. (Applause.) It’s true.
I mean, everywhere you look, confidence is back, jobs are coming back. In a word, America is back. And we’re just getting started, my friends. It’s true. (Applause.)
And, you know, what brings us all here today is you all know that that’s nowhere more true than in the Latino community. As President Trump has said, Latino business leaders are “living proof that the American Dream is back [bigger] and stronger than ever” before.
Today, more Hispanic Americans are working than ever before in American history. Latino-owned businesses employ more than 2 million Americans and contribute nearly half a trillion dollars to our economy every year.
Now, all of you business leaders gathered here today are part of an integral story of success in America. People like Cici Rojas. Where are you Cici? (Applause.) Stand up, Cici. We just said “hello.” (Applause.) She’s the owner of Tico Productions in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of the reasons why Latina-owned small businesses are the fastest-growing sector in our entire country.
Cici’s company provides Spanish-language broadcasts for two NFL teams: her hometown Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. And thanks to the President’s tax cuts, Cici has been able to grow her business and pick up two new NFL clients, the Jaguars and the Ravens.
And in our first year in office, I actually had the privilege to meet Cici at the Naval Observatory when we were celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. And, Cici, let me just say thanks for being such a great example of American success in this growing American economy. (Applause.) Take another bow.
We’re also joined today by Rafael Cuellar. Where’s Rafael hiding out? Rafael, stand up. Good to see you. (Applause.) Rafael is a veteran of the United States Navy, and we are grateful for your service to America in uniform.
Rafael told us that he inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from his dad, who opened a small bodega in New Jersey when Rafael was just a kid. And after he retired from the Navy, Rafael took over the family business — a chain of Shop Rite grocery stores, which has grown tremendously under his leadership. And thanks to the President’s tax cuts, Rafael told us he’s been able to open another store and continue growing the family business.
Join me in congratulating Rafael and Cici on living the American Dream and proving that success is happening in this country like never before. (Applause.) Thank you, Rafael. And thank you, Cici.
You know, the President said not long ago, in his words, “The Latino community embodies the pioneering spirit of America.” We believe that’s why Hispanic Americans are starting new businesses at nearly three times the national average.
And under President Trump’s leadership, Hispanic business owners are confident about the years ahead. I was just told, according to a survey that just came out, in the next 12 months, 87 percent of Hispanic business owners are planning to expand their business, and more than half of them are planning to hire more Americans. (Applause.) That’s a record and a promise of even more success.
You know, the truth is, as you all know, the Hispanic community is one of the most dynamic in our entire country, and your success is America’s success. But as the President likes to say, everything I just described — all the momentum in this economy — that’s just what he calls a good start.
I mean, the truth is, we’re fighting for America’s job creators not only here at home with new policies for less taxes, less regulation, expanding access to American energy as never before, but we’ve also been forging new trade deals that put American jobs and American workers first. From Europe to the Indo-Pacific, we’re negotiating deals that are free, fair, and reciprocal, and put America first. (Applause.)
You know, it’s been my honor to travel to Latin America five times since becoming your Vice President to strengthen our partnerships in the region — like, in December, when I attended the inauguration of the new president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. And all across the Western Hemisphere, this administration is continuing to work to expand opportunity for American businesses, and we’re going to continue to do just that.
And let me take a moment — let me take a moment to thank all of you who stood so strongly with this President and this administration when we finally renegotiated and signed a replacement for the outdated NAFTA deal. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has arrived. (Applause.)
And you made a difference. Your voices, your engagement with your elected representatives, your willingness to go out and give voice to the need for a new deal between the United States and Mexico and Canada, standing firm with this President while he drove a hard bargain, has put us in a position for a fresh start — a fresh start in North America.
The truth is, more than 2 million American manufacturing jobs depend on exports to Canada and Mexico, and the USMCA will finally give these workers the level playing field they need to compete and win on a global stage.
But we’ve negotiated a new deal, but now we need your help again to build momentum to have the Congress get behind this agreement. And so I encourage each and every one of you to reach out to your representatives in the Congress of the United States, reach out to the congressmen and senators, and tell them that we need to ratify the USMCA and we need to do it this year. (Applause.)
So we’ve made great progress. The American economy is booming. With less taxes, less regulation, more affordable American energy, innovation is expanding all across the Latino community and all across the American economy. And the truth of the matter is we’re going to continue to build that momentum with the kind of trade deals across the world that will put our jobs and our economy first.
But we all know, to sustain economic growth, we have to strengthen the foundations of our prosperity. We have to uphold freedom and the rule of law. And the time has come to fix our broken immigration system once and for all. (Applause.)
You know, like many of you, I’m an American because of legal immigration. My grandfather immigrated to this country from Ireland when he was just about my daughter’s age. The legend in my family is that my grandmother walked my grandfather up the hill across the street from their house in Ireland and looked out to the West and said, “You have to go to America because there’s a future there for you.”
And the truth is, she was talking about me. (Laughter.) His name was Richard Michael Cawley. And that’s how his grandson Michael Richard Pence got to be Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.) What a country. What a country. It’s amazing to think.
Sometimes I tell people that, when they say, “What were you thinking about on Inauguration Day, standing there in the cold taking that oath of office?” And I’ll be honest with you, I had my wife and my kids at my side, and I was really — I was thinking a lot about my grandfather and thinking about what he would think looking down from glory.
And I’m convinced of two things. Number one, we were very close; he knew me very well. And I know he would be very surprised. (Laughter.) But the other thing I thought, in my heart of hearts, was that, as he looked down from glory, that he just thought he was right to come.
And this is a country where anybody can be anybody. If you work hard and play by the rules, and keep your promises, you can live the American Dream.
And that’s really why we’ve got to take on this system. We’ve got to take on this broken immigration system. We need a legal immigration system so that more people can live the dream that my family has lived and is living today, and that many of your families have lived, as well, and are living as we speak. We need a system that is built on merit, on opportunity for all.
But the truth is, men and women, that all begins with border security. Because as the President has said many times: If you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country. (Applause.) It’s true. (Applause.)
And the truth is, after months of Democrat denials and claims of a manufactured crisis on our southern border, today’s headlines across the nation tell a different story, don’t they?
The New York Times headline reads: “Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More than 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month.”
In the Washington Post, the headline reads: “Family migration, already at record levels, rocketed to new high in February.”
And the Wall Street Journal’s headline: “Record Immigration Surge at the Border.”
It’s just like the President and I have been saying: We have a crisis at our southern border, and the time has come for America to act. (Applause.)
And the truth is, it’s a crisis like we’ve never seen before. And the Wall Street Journal said it well today, and I quote, “More migrant families crossing into the United States illegally have been arrested in the first five months of [this] federal fiscal year than…any prior full year.”
The reality is, what’s happening at our southern border is different than it’s ever been before because, for first time, a majority of people attempting to come into our country illegally are families and unaccompanied minors that are being enticed by drug cartels and human traffickers to make the long and dangerous journey north to take advantage of our porous border and loopholes in our laws.
And the truth is, as the President has said, it’s hurting — it’s hurting innocent people on both sides of the border.
And the truth is, on the journey north it’s reported that 70 percent of illegal immigrants report being victims of violence. Nearly one-third of women traveling to our southern border from Central America are sexually assaulted on the journey, according to Doctors Without Borders.
Just yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that, in the last five months, Customs and Border Protection has seen a more than 300 percent increase in the number of families apprehended compared to the same period the year before.
Every day we don’t secure our border, we are allowing the crisis to worsen and more lives to be endangered and exploited.
And as I saw firsthand at the Phoenix Field Division of the DEA just yesterday, despite the incredible work that our men and women in law enforcement are doing, drug cartels and smugglers are exploiting this crisis at our southern border to flood drugs into our country, harming our children and our families and our communities.
Mexican and Central American drug cartels are the principal wholesale sources for drugs for street-level gangs and dealers across this country, and their deadly trade has brought untold suffering to millions of American families. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for adults under 55 years old. In 2016, across America, some 174 people lost their lives to drug overdose every single day.
We’re talking about families. I had a senator just last week say to me — he said, “We don’t have a crisis on our southern border.” He says, “We have a crisis in all 50 states that’s being driven to what’s happening on our southern border.” Opiate abuse and addiction.
Now, this is all why President Trump has taken such a strong stand for border security. It’s why the President used his authority to declare a national emergency on the southern border.
But despite the fact that he has clear statutory authority under the National Emergencies Act, as I stand before you today, some in Congress are trying to stop the President from exercising the authority that Congress actually gave him to address what is an undeniable humanitarian crisis at our border.
So let me say this from my heart: A vote against the President’s emergency declaration is a vote against border security. A vote against the President’s emergency declaration is a vote to deny the real humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.
And so we call on every member of the United States Senate: Set politics aside. Stand up for border security. Stand with this President. And put the safety and security of the American people first. (Applause.)
So we’ve been standing up for the rule of law, for prosperity and security in our country. But as I stand before you today, I couldn’t be more proud of an administration that’s been upholding the rule of law and expanding prosperity all across our hemisphere. We’ve been standing for freedom and prosperity in this hemisphere of freedom.
It is remarkable to think what’s occurred in Venezuela in recent years. Venezuela was once one of the richest and most vibrant democracies in the Western Hemisphere. But under the socialist rule of the dictator, Nicolas Maduro, it has become one of the poorest and most despotic.
Today, it’s remarkable to think that than 9 out of 10 people in Venezuela live in poverty. More than 3 million Venezuelans have already abandoned their homes to flee the brutality and deprivation of the Maduro regime.
From early in this administration, President Trump has led the effort to isolate the dictator Maduro through economic and diplomatic means.
And just last week, I went to Latin America to deliver a message to our partners in the region and to the people of Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go. (Applause.)
The United States was proud to be the first nation on Earth to recognize Interim President Juan Guaidó as the legitimate President of Venezuela. (Applause.) And now, more than 50 nations on Earth have followed us.
And it was my honor to meet with President Guaidó and his wife Fabiana in person just a week ago in that trip to Colombia. Remarkable and courageous people who love their country deeply and are committed to restoring democracy. We discussed our shared effort to provide humanitarian relief to the long-suffering people of Venezuela.
And we made it clear to leaders around the world: There can be no bystanders in the struggle for Venezuela’s freedom. And the United States calls on every nation on Earth to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s President, and take the side of freedom. (Applause.)
But I promise all my fellow Americans in the room, we’ll continue to stand strong. In fact, today, the State Department is announcing that the United States will revoke 77 visas, including many officials of the Maduro regime and their families. We will continue to hold the Maduro regime accountable until libertad is restored in Venezuela. (Applause.)
But the truth is, as many of you know, and the Venezuelan people know, their oppressors do not act alone. Under this President, we’ve also stood strong and stood up with those that — stood up to those who’ve aided and abetted the dictatorship in Venezuela.
The truth is, the only way Maduro clings to power is with the brutality of his supporters and with the help he receives from communist Cuba. As President Trump said in his speech to Venezuelan exiles in Miami not long ago, “Maduro is not a Venezuelan patriot; he is a Cuban puppet.”
The people of Venezuela know Cuba’s leaders are the real imperialists in the Western Hemisphere. For decades, Cuba has tried to create client states across the region under the guise of providing assistance by sending abroad doctors that are barely more than indentured servants. While normal countries export goods, Cuba exports despotism and strong-arm tactics. Cuba’s influence has driven Venezuela’s failure, and the time has come to liberate Venezuela from Cuba. (Applause.)
The truth is, it’s just one more reason why President Trump kept his promise when he reversed the failed policies of the last administration toward Cuba, because the Cuban people have the same birthright of liberty that God gave us all. And in this White House, I promise you it will always be que viva Cuba libre. (Applause.)
So, under President Donald Trump, I promise you we’re going to continue to stand with the people of Venezuela and all those across this region who are standing for freedom. And we’ll continue to stand strong for freedom here at home. Because the American people have a choice to make in the next 20 months, and the stakes could not be higher, and the choice could not be clearer.
It’s a choice between more growth, prosperity, and opportunity for every American, or a return and an acceleration to the direction and the failed economic policies of the past. It’s increasingly obvious in the public debate it’s a choice between freedom and socialism.
Today, many leading Democrats openly advocate an economic system that has impoverished millions around the world. Under the guise of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, Democrats are embracing the same tired economic theories that have impoverished nations and stifled the liberties of millions.
What they’re actually offering is just more of the same: more taxes, more spending, more government, and less freedom. So let me say from my heart, to all my fellow Americans gathered in this room, to all of you living the American Dream: It was freedom, not socialism, that gave us the most prosperous economy in the history of the world. (Applause.)
It was freedom, not socialism, that ended slavery, won two world wars, and stands today as a beacon of hope in the world.
It was freedom, not socialism, that is moving us beyond the prejudices of the past to create a more perfect union for every American, regardless of race or creed or color.
And it was freedom, not socialism, that gave us the highest quality of life, the cleanest environment on Earth, and has improved the health and wellbeing of millions around the world.
You know, the truth is, what Medicare for All really means is quality healthcare for none. (Laughter.) And the only thing green about the so-called Green New Deal is how much green it’s going to cost taxpayers and job creators if they ever pass it into law. (Applause.)
You know, Margaret Thatcher probably said it best: “The trouble with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.” (Laughter.)
The President said it very well in that State of the Union Address, though. He said, “America was founded on liberty and independence…not [on] government coercion, domination, and control.” The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America.
So I say to all of you — job creators, entrepreneurs, people living the American Dream and advancing it all across this country: For the sake of our jobs, for the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of the American Dream, all of us need to say, as the President has said, with one voice, “America will never be a socialist country.” (Applause.)
So thank you all. Thank you all for the opportunity to be with you today. I leave here today with renewed confidence. I truly do. I look at the bright and shining faces of all of you that are making such a difference, creating jobs and opportunity for people in the Latino community, and growth and prosperity for communities all across this country, and advancing policies that expanding the American Dream to everyone. And I’m confident that we’ve only just begun.
But as we steer America toward that True North of freedom and opportunity for all, that we’ve just begun to explore the boundless potential of the American people. And I know we’ll claim that future, because I have faith. I have faith in the American people — that if we go out and speak freedom to them; if we lay out a vision for the future of boundless opportunity based on timeless American principles; if we lay out a choice between more freedom or more government, the American people will choose freedom every single time.
And I believe with all my heart that, in the days ahead, if all of us in this room and all looking on hold the banner of freedom high; if we put into practice those words that were inscribed on the Liberty Bell so long ago — those ancient words to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land [and] unto all the inhabitants thereof,” just as they have always done before, the American people will rally to this cause. We’ll keep on winning. America will keep on growing. We will preserve freedom for this generation and the next.
So, as you leave this place, I hope you go with confidence as well — confidence that you have a President and an administration that’s fighting every single day to expand opportunities for the Latino community and every community all across this nation, and build on the ideals and the values that are at the heart of American greatness.
I hope you also have confidence in the boundless potential of the American people and the opportunity to embrace the cause and the principles that have made this nation great. And confidence, as I do, that if we will but ask for the blessings of He who established this miracle of democracy on these wilderness shores, that we cannot fail. For as the Bible says, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (Applause.) So that means freedom always wins.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the Latino community across America. And God bless America.