Mike Pence photo

Remarks by the Vice President in a Press Gaggle in San Diego, California

July 11, 2019

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. It's a great honor to be here on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro on — on, really, a momentous day.

Today, here at this port, from this cutter, we will offload 39,000 pounds of cocaine that these Coast Guardsmen and women managed to capture at sea. That's 39,000 pounds of cocaine that will not go into our communities, will not tear at our families, that will not cost American lives. And it was my great honor to be here today for this offload to really commend the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro for a job well done.

This is one of our newest ships in the Coast Guard. And they acquitted themselves with great distinction and courage on the open seas — even, as you are all aware, that — the interdiction of a semi-submersible ship, almost a submarine, that was filled with narcotics.

And the interdiction of 39,000 pounds of cocaine undoubtedly saved lives. We've lost 70,000 Americans to cocaine overdose in the last 10 years. And on the ocean, here in the Pacific, through the Gulf, it is the Coast Guard that is stepping into harm's way and preventing those drugs from reaching our families and reaching our streets. And so it was an honor for me to be able to be here today to commend them.

We also know that not all the narcotics are coming over the ocean. And tomorrow, I will be at the southern border — McAllen, Texas. I'll be leading a delegation of members of the Senate. We'll be going into a detention facility, but also being briefed on the very real crisis at our southern border.

But make no mistake about it. The crisis on our border that, in the last month alone, saw nearly 100,000 people come across our border in a single month alone — that crisis itself is not only exploiting vulnerable families in Central America, but also it's making it more possible for drugs to flow across our southern border. It's one of the reasons that the drug traffickers and the drug cartels are fomenting the human trafficking that's going on on our southern border.

So we're absolutely determined that — as President Trump has made clear again and again, that we're going to end the crisis on our southern border, we're going to secure our border, and we're going to end the flow of drugs that's tearing apart our communities and our families.

But tomorrow I'll be focused on that crisis on our southern border. And specifically, we'll be taking a delegation and literally taking cameras and the American people into a detention center to see the truly noble and honorable and compassionate work that our Customs and Border Protection people are doing every single day to deal with these families that have been exploited by human traffickers and drug cartels.

But today is about the Coasties. It's about saying thank you to the Munro, hoping that they have a good rest back when they make it into their home port. And really, to make sure the American people know that these men and women are out there putting their lives on the line, but they're saving lives all over America. And we just really couldn't be more grateful for the work that they've done.

Q: Mr. Vice President —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Please, go ahead.

Q: You're obviously here today — you talk about the border wall. You talk about, you know, just increased border safety. Does that push the fight that these men and women here on this flight deck today see at sea? And what kind of increase in safety can the U.S. government provide?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's no question that as we continue to secure our border, that we're going to see the drug cartels attempt to use the open oceans to move narcotics, even more than they do today. And I want to assure the American people that we're going to continue to redouble our efforts to support the Coast Guard's work.

I mean, I'm proud of the support this administration has provided to our military. And the President and I couldn't be more proud of the work the Coast Guard has done. It's one of the reasons why we've made a budget request for additional ships, additional resources for the Coast Guard. The helicopter deployments — we're calling for a 25 percent increase in what's known as the HITRON program. And we'll continue to make sure that these men and women that are literally putting their lives on the line are able to meet any increasing threat from the drug cartels that comes in the open ocean.

Q: Mr. Vice President, you talk about compassionate care at the border.


Q: However, there are some people who say that we need more compassionate care, or there's not enough, or something has gone wrong. You're going to go to a detention facility tomorrow.


Q: But there are other facilities — we've seen pictures of them. How do you reconcile what you're going to probably see tomorrow with some of the pictures that the American people have seen and people here in San Diego are concerned about?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say that we'll be visiting McAllen, Texas, which is one of the busiest ports of entry on our southern border. And the detention facility in McAllen is one of the busiest on the border. So we will get a very clear look at, I think, two things:

Number one, I think we will see that our system is overwhelmed. There's no question. I mean, you know, in the month of May, you know, more than 114,000 people came and crossed our border to claim — to make a claim of asylum and enter into our system. It was nearly 100,000 in the month of June.

And for the first time ever, the vast majority of people presenting at our border are families with vulnerable children. And the truth is, our system was simply never designed to accommodate what could, this year, well be over a million people coming across our border.

It's one of the reasons why President Trump and I have said since January that we have a crisis at our southern border. The President declared an emergency so we could begin to build a wall on the southern border and that's well under way. He — we took steps to insist that Mexico do more. And now they're doing more than they've ever done before, deploying their national guard to their southern border and to our southern border.

We think some of the reduction in the month of June — a 28 percent reduction — is largely owing to the efforts that Mexico has made and we're very grateful for that.

But two weeks ago, the President and I worked with leaders in both parties in Congress to secure an additional $4.6 billion in funding for humanitarian aid. And, frankly, we were grateful that Democrats in Congress were willing to support it because, for the last six months, they were saying it was a manufactured crisis. They were saying that our system wasn't overwhelmed.

And now that they recognize there is a crisis — I think it's an outrage that some Democrats in Congress are referring to U.S. Customs and Border facilities as "concentration camps." That's totally unacceptable.

And tomorrow we're going to take the cameras into one of the busiest detention centers on the southern border and the American people —

Q: Mr. Vice President —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: are going to be able to see for themselves every single day, our Customs and Border Protection provide compassionate and generous care to people that are crossing our border. And we're going to continue to see to it that that's the case.

Q: Mr. Vice President —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What about — go ahead.

Q: When you talk about a manufactured crisis at the border — something that isn't manufactured — there's just tons of sewage flowing into San Diego here. The mayor had a chance to bring it up to the President. Are there plans to try to stifle that flow of sewage? Border Patrol says it puts its agents at risk. We have to close beaches here all the time. Is the White House even aware of this problem?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I — what I will do is, today, I will follow back up with that. I don't know if the President has had any interaction with the mayor on that topic.

But, look, this is a beautiful city. Frankly, it's — my wife and I have been very moved to be back in San Diego — not just celebrating a great military tradition here, but the beauty of the bay and the quality of life here is something that we want to support. And so we'll be looking into that.

Q: Mr. Vice President, you extended —


Q: — you extended an invitation to —


Q: You extended an invitation to all of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee —


Q: — including the Democrats. At this point, you haven't heard back that any of them are coming. They have said that they think that this move might be a political one. What's your message to them?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we did. We worked with the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to invite all of the members — the Republicans and Democrat members — of the Senate Judiciary Committee to tour the detention facility at the McAllen section of the border.

And I'm disappointed that, at this hour, it does appear that any Democrats are willing to take the time to come and tour a detention facility, particularly when some Democrats are using the most outrageous language and unsubstantiated claims to demean and discredit the noble work of Customs and Border Protection.

But, look, here's the thing: If the Democrats in the Senate don't want to go, we're still going to bring the American people, because at the Presidents direction, we've made it possible for the media to follow us in. And we're going to tour the facility —

Q: Is it true that they don't even have water?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: — and I will tell you, this is one of the busiest facilities on our southern border. And I fully expect it — I fully expect it to be full. I expect there to be evidence the system is overflowing.

But I also know that what people are going to see is not the situation that many Democrats have described — with apparently not going and looking for themselves — but actually a situation where our Customs and Border Protection are providing humanitarian care; they're providing healthcare, shelter, food, sustenance in a way that would make the American people proud. It's — but I want to be clear —

Q: So are you saying the pictures and the Democrats are lying?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I want to be clear that it's — the system is overwhelmed and we fully expect it to reflect that tomorrow. And it's part of the reason, I think, the President wanted us to go — to bring the cameras in, so that we can continue to call on the Congress to make the changes in our asylum laws that'll be necessary to stop the flow of migrants from Central America.

Let me be clear on this point: Human traffickers and drug cartels use the loopholes in American asylum laws to entice people to pay American cash to take the long and dangerous journey north to our border, where along the way, the majority face violence and abuse. According to Doctors Without Borders, a third of young women who make the journey are sexually assaulted along the way.

I mean, all of this is a result of the ability for human traffickers to say that if you cross into our border and you read a certain set of words consistent with American asylum laws, that you'll be able, essentially, to stay in a system that has been overwhelmed and has a vast backlog — in some cases, of years — of people to be processed.

But that's got to change. That's why we've got to reform our asylum laws, end catch-and-release, and really take the enticement away from the human traffickers who are exploiting vulnerable families in Central America every day and endangering lives and creating this crisis at our border.
Q: Mr. Vice President, your response to the National Guard Facebook group where they mocked dead children in the immigration areas?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The National Guard?

Q: The National Guard Facebook group that mocked dead children in immigration areas.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we have no tolerance of improper statements or callous statements like those that have been reported. And I know that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating that matter as we speak.

Q: Mr. Vice President, your only ally in Congress — your only ally in Congress, Duncan Hunter, has been accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. What do you think about that? And have there been talks of a pardon for Duncan Hunter?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I simply cannot comment on an ongoing criminal matter.

Q: I mean what — I mean, what are your thoughts about him allegedly misspending thousands of dollars on personal matters?

Q: Mr. Vice President, so just to clarify, would you say those pictures of the detention centers are or are not true?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry. Say again?

Q: The pictures of the detention centers, are those true? Is it true that they don't even have water?

Q: In some places.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, everyone I speak to at Customs and Border Protection has told me — and in my own visits to our border in the past, I've seen our CBP personnel providing food, sustenance, healthcare, shelter in way that would make the American people proud.

But we're going to go to the detention facility tomorrow and we'll see for ourselves. And the American people are going to see.

Q: What about the pictures that are already there?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And I think they're going to see — I think they're going to see that those who are — and I have to tell you, look, that for six months the Democrats said that this was a manufactured crisis. And so we welcome the fact that Democrats in Congress are now admitting that we have a crisis at our southern border. We truly do.

We were grateful Speaker Pelosi supported and helped move forward $4.6 billion to address the humanitarian needs that are created out of this crisis.

But the statements by some Democrats in Congress — I mean, to refer to American Customs detention facilities as concentration camps is an outrage. Nazis took lives and murdered people. Our Customs and Border Protection save lives every day.

Q: Mr. Vice President, the words about the children being — taking their beds away, does that concern you?

Q: I was going to say, like kids have died though.


Q: There's been reports of minors dying while they were under the custody of CBP. So what do you say to (inaudible)?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, our hearts break for the loss of life. The images of the father and the little girl in the Rio Grande broke the heart of every American. And — but the American people deserve to know that the human traffickers that are, in some cases, taking as much as $5,000 American to then take people on the long and dangerous journey north have no regard for human life.

And that — it's the reason why we have to reform our asylum laws. We have to take the tools away that they're using to entice people to take the long and dangerous journey north. But any loss of life —

Q: They're — these families are already facing crime and violence in their own countries. They come here to find a better opportunity. So they're not forced; they leave because they're already facing crime and violence in their home countries.
Q: (Inaudible.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the — look, I've been to the Northern Triangle. I've met repeatedly with the Presidents of all three countries. The United States of America is calling on them to do more. President Trump has made it clear that our friends in Central America need to do more to interdict the human traffickers that are exploiting vulnerable families and costing lives.

But make no mistake about it — look, we — this crisis at our southern border is harming the American people. We are on track for as many as a million people to come into our country through the southern border this year. And I want to be clear, with these courageous Coasties behind me and the incredible work that they've done — interdicting 39,000 pounds of cocaine — that as that crisis continues, it not only places a tremendous burden on our system and on the American people, but it also makes it more possible for the drug cartels — as our system is overwhelmed by this mass migration, it makes it easier for the drug cartels to move dangerous and illicit drugs into this country, tearing apart our families.

So we're going to continue to lean into this, that it really is all about saving lives.

Q: How closely is the President watching your visit? How closely is the President monitoring what you saw here today but also what you'll be seeing tomorrow?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the President and I talked a couple times yesterday; we talk every day when I'm on the road. And I know how proud he is of the Coast Guard for this interdiction. Think about this: In three months, apprehended 55 drug trafficking members of the cartels, 39,000 pounds of cocaine, about 1,000 pounds of marijuana. And at great risk, at times, accomplished that. And I know the President is very, very proud of them.

But look, the President and I talked about us going and visiting the detention center at McAllen and he felt very strongly that we needed to bring the cameras in. And so we've made it possible for that to occur. And now the American people are going to be able to see it for themselves.

Q: With the Ridgecrest earthquake, do you think you and the President —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: How about one more? How about somebody that hasn't —

Q: — the President and Governor Newsom can work on the Ridgecrest earthquake?


Q: Regarding the death of these children —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I got you already —

Q: — what answer can you give?


Q: Regarding the deaths of the children in the detention centers, what answers can you give to the country or to the families?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve. And our hearts and our prayers go out to any families that have lost loved ones swept up in this crisis at our southern border.

It's part of why the President and I are so determined to secure our border, to call on Mexico to do more. It's why we fought so hard to get $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid, and it's also why we're going to continue to fight to reform our asylum laws, to take that tool away from human traffickers.

So it is about care and concern for the American people. But — and, frankly, about deep concern for the vulnerable families that are being exploited in this midst of this crisis.

Q: So when people are asking asylum and they're turned away, then they find more dangerous ways of crossing the border, do you guys think about that — when they're turned away when they're trying to ask for asylum here at the border?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We — look, our immigration system in this country is broken. And in the days ahead, you're going to see our administration lay out a framework for really fixing this broken immigration system.

I say that as the grandson of an immigrant. My grandfather came through Ellis Island, became an American. That's how I became Vice President of the United States. The President's grandfather immigrated to this country. And we believe in legal immigration, but our system today is not working. It's not working for the American people.

And as we work to end this crisis at our southern border, rest assured, we are going to work diligently with everyone in Congress who will work with us to reform our immigration system and fix this broken system once and for all.

Q: You're saying this administration is for legal immigration. The President has proposed to cut legal immigration. He said it to all the rallies, "We're full. We can't take any more people." He wants to cut legal immigration. So how do you say that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, the President speaks about that. He speaks about the fact that we have an unprecedented migration coming across our southern border. And the President has expressed a determination to enforce our border, to secure our border. It's the reason why we're building the wall, it's the reason why we called on Mexico — with the possibility of tariffs on all goods coming from Mexico — to do more. And now they are doing more. And it's one of the reasons we continue to call on Congress to close the loopholes.

Look, we have — you look across this country, this economy is expanding rapidly. We've created 6 million new jobs. I mean, there are job openings all across the United States of America. There are record job openings in the last month. But what the President has communicated and will continue to communicate is it is absolutely essential that we have a system of legal immigration that allows people to come into this growing economy under the color of the law.

Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President in a Press Gaggle in San Diego, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/334215

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