Remarks by the Vice President at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Well, thank you all. Thank you for the warm welcome. And would you join me in thanking Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for her tremendous leadership of the Department of Homeland Security? (Applause.) Couldn't be more proud and couldn't be more grateful.
Please be seated.
As I begin, let me — let me also say thank you to another great supporter of this administration and a great supporter of Homeland Security and the men and women of Customs and Border Protection. Congressman Alex Mooney, thank you so much for your leadership. It's great to be in your great congressional district. (Applause.) Thanks, Alex. Great guy and a great champion of all of you.
To Commissioner McAleenan, Assistant Commissioner Hall, and to all of you who serve to protect the safety and security of the American people on our borders and throughout this nation: It is my great honor to be able to be here to address all of you who represent the more than 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you for what you do every day to keep the American people safe. (Applause.)
And it's an honor to be here at this Advanced Training Center of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We had an extraordinary tour and to see the way that you are training the trainers here. You know, the Good Book tells us that "iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
And thank you to those of you who are the trainers, those of you who are here being trained to be better equipped as leaders. Thank you for being here and for all you do to make the men and women who protect our borders and enforce our immigration laws and see to the security of this nation in departments across this country even more effective and more successful. Join me in thanking all the trainers here at this Advanced Training Center. (Applause.) We're proud of you and grateful to you.
And to all of them and to all of you, allow me to bring greetings from a great champion of the men and women of law enforcement across this country and especially the extraordinary men and women of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I spoke to the President when I arrived here at the advanced training facility today. We had a few moments to touch base. And when I told him I was in West Virginia and that I was with the men and women of Customs and Border Protection, I think he sounded just a little bit jealous. (Laughter.) But he wanted me to make sure you knew how grateful he is, how grateful we all are, for the service that all of you provide to the people of this country. You make a difference each and every day.
And I'm really here on the President's behalf and on behalf of not only our administration, but on behalf of all of the American people to make another installment on a debt of gratitude that our nation owes to all of you and to your families. Would you join me in giving a round of applause to the families that support the work of the men and women who wear the blue, who wear the green, who wear the tan? (Applause.)
You know, the men and women of CBP and DHS do extraordinary work every day to protect our country. I've heard today, in briefings with your senior leadership, that they couldn't do it without the world-class instruction that you have here at the Advanced Training Center. It truly is remarkable to have witnessed.
For 14 years, this training center, I'm told, has given specialized training to senior Border Patrol and federal law enforcement personnel. Some of you who are with us today are receiving that training, and I have no doubt you'll use it — use the lessons that you learned here to make the men and women that you lead even more effective, make our nation more secure, and make it more possible for them to do their jobs and come home safe.
It's remarkable to think that, every year, more than 17,000 Border Patrol and law enforcement agents come to this facility to train, attend classes, receive hands-on instruction. You use state-of-the-art technology, virtual reality, live combat exercises to replicate conditions and threats that Border Patrol and law enforcement face every day in the field.
It's important to remember that, as you confront the challenges on our border — including the humanitarian crisis that we're facing on our southern border — each and every day, the men and women of Customs and Border Protection are also dealing with dangerous criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, and violent gang members like MS-13.
And the training that you receive here is all evidence of the commitment the American people have to making sure that you have the resources and the support and the training to be able to accomplish your mission in that challenging and dangerous environment.
I just saw today, at the facility, you teach Border Patrol and law enforcement agents how to use every available tool, from K-9s to physical barriers, to prevent the illegal entry of criminal aliens and drugs at our ports of entry and on our border. And the American people deserve to know that your hard work and training is making a real difference on our border and all across this country.
It's amazing to reflect that, just a month ago, that the Nogales Port of Entry in Arizona Customs and Border Protection prevented more than 250 pounds of fentanyl from entering the United States of America. (Applause.) Tremendous.
That was enough fentanyl to kill nearly one-third of the entire population of our country, and it was the largest fentanyl bust in CBP history. And the team at Nogales has our congratulations and our thanks.
Last month, working with state and local partners, CBP agents stopped a shipment of illegal drugs from passing through the Port of Newark, ultimately seizing more than 3,200 pounds of cocaine worth $77 million. That's worth a round of applause too. (Applause.) These drug busts save lives all across the country.
You know, the President and I always reflect on the fact that the lives you save every day don't make it in the headlines. But I want you to know the American people know it. It's not just the interdiction that's reported in newspapers and on television, but it's the recognition that what you stop at our ports, what you stop at our border doesn't make it into our communities and doesn't tear apart families across this country.
These drug busts and what's happening all across this country every day are a testament to the exceptional training here at the Advanced Training Center.
So to all of you — the men and women of DHS and CBP — all of you are helping all of our agents on the frontlines do their job and come home safe. You all deserve one more round of applause. We are truly proud and truly grateful. (Applause.)
Despite all the success and the work that you enable here at this Advanced Training Center, the American people deserve to know that your work is more important and, frankly, more challenging than ever. Because, as all of you know, our nation today faces an undeniable security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border.
It's a crisis of illegal immigration, drugs, dangerous criminals coming into our country, and human trafficking. And it's unlike any crisis we've seen at our southern border before. For the first time ever, a majority of those 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 our southern border to exploit our porous border and loopholes in American law.
As President Trump has said, in his words, "These are the heartbreaking realities that are hurting innocent, precious human beings every…day on both sides of [our] border." And that's why this President has taken decisive steps to act to end this crisis on the southern border of the United States. (Applause.)
And the facts are really appalling on both sides of the border. As all of you at CBP know, 70 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended at our border report being victims of violence on the journey north. Nearly one-third of women from Central America, according to Doctors Without Borders, have been sexually assaulted on the journey north.
It's extraordinary to think of these criminal syndicates and drug cartels that are taking advantage of vulnerable populations in Central America, not just to gain the cash that they require people to pay to take the long and dangerous journey, but to literally use groups of vulnerable people to draw attention of border protection away from the movement of drugs in another part.
Last week, this very department reported that, in the last five months, Customs and Border Protection has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of families apprehended compared to the same time last year. More than 2,000 illegal immigrants are being apprehended each day at our southern border. Border Patrol has apprehended more than 268,000 people since the beginning of the fiscal year. That's 100 percent increase from last year. And every day we don't secure our border, we're allowing this crisis to worsen and lives to be endangered and exploited.
And despite the extraordinary work of all of you and those you represent in law enforcement, drug cartels and smugglers are exploiting this crisis to flood drugs into our country, tearing apart our families, claiming American lives.
It's remarkable to think drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for adults under 55 years of age. As the President will discuss with law enforcement leaders at the White House later today, in 2017, across this country, 192 people lost their lives to drug overdose every single day.
As one senator said to me, standing up at a meeting on Capitol Hill just a few short days ago — a senator from the American northwest — he said, "I'm standing with this President for border security because," he said — he said, "Mike, to be honest with you, we don't just have a crisis at our southern border. Because of what is happening at our southern border, we have a crisis in all 50 states." And that's why the President is right to act. (Applause.)
It's a humanitarian crisis. It's a crisis of drug abuse and addiction and human trafficking across this country. I stand before you today, and I'm very humbled by the courage represented in this room. Because the truth is, in the midst of this crisis, it's our law enforcement personnel who bear the burden of the crisis that we face, as well as American families.
I'm informed today that assaults on CBP agents rose by nearly 50 percent in the last year. And CBP agents put their own lives at risk to rescue some 4,300 people from serious injury or death as they were making the dangerous trek north to our border. The commitment to law and order and compassion of Customs and Border Protection is a source of great pride for the American people. We're proud of your work. (Applause.)
So as I said, this crisis is affecting every community in America. And President Trump and our entire administration are determined — are determined to confront it to make sure that you have the resources and the support that you need to accomplish the mission that each of you has stepped forward to achieve for the American people.
You know, this nation saw in high relief earlier this year when President Trump took a strong stand for border security for 35 days, worked with members of Congress to demand that we had the resources and the support that Homeland Security told us that you needed to build a wall, to secure our border, to provide additional personnel and technology to accomplish your mission.
The President and I are grateful for the men and women of CBP, DHS, and all who enforce our laws. Especially, I want to say thank you to all of you who stood tall and stayed on mission through those 35 days. You've never wavered. And the American people and this President and I are grateful. (Applause.)
At the end of that impasse in Washington, we did secure more than $1.3 billion to build 55 miles of physical barrier along our southern border.
But as the President made clear from the very beginning, after getting the counsel from the Department of Homeland Security, CBP, the Commissioner, and all of the experts, we made it clear that wasn't nearly enough. That's why, earlier this week, President Trump submitted a budget request to the Congress. It called for fiscal discipline in discretionary programs, a record investment in national defense, and it called for $32.5 billion for border security, including additional $8.6 billion to finish building that wall in the next year. (Applause.)
I'm pleased to report the President is also calling for nearly half a billion dollars to hire additional CBP and ICE law enforcement officials — more than 1,700 personnel on the frontlines to give reinforcements to all of you who are in the fight for law and order at our borders in this country. Help is on the way. (Applause.)
But to ensure that all of you have the resources you need to do your jobs as we confront this crisis, President Trump declared a national emergency at our southern border.
Now, we're grateful to members of Congress from the great state of [West] Virginia who've stood with this President in his emergency declaration. We're grateful to Congressman Mooney; we're grateful to Senator Shelley Moore Capito and others in the West Virginia delegation.
But despite the fact that the President has the clear statutory authority under the National Emergency Act, as I stand before you today, some in Congress are actually poised to try and stop the President from exercising the authority that Congress actually gave him to address this crisis.
Now, we're grateful for senators who are continuing to work to find a way to address this crisis and support the President's emergency declaration. I was on Capitol Hill yesterday for productive discussions with many of the senators who are looking to address this crisis and support border security. But I told them, and I'll tell all of you: 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 humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.
So today, before all of you brave Americans, we call on every member of the United States Senate: Stand up for border security. Stand with President Trump and put the safety and security of America first. (Applause.)
And I'll make you a promise to all of you who enforce our laws: Once we've secured our border, we're going to work with members of Congress in both parties to fix our broken immigration system once and for all.
You know, this administration will always stand with the men and women who enforce our laws all across this country. And the men and women of Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security are cherished members of our law enforcement community.
I actually learned today the Department of Homeland Security has the largest law enforcement contingent in the United States of America.
Being here, looking out at all of you, let me say to you and all the men and women of law enforcement across this country: In this White House, under this President, we will always have your back. (Applause.)
And just as every day you fight to keep our nation safe, I'll promise you: This President and our entire administration are going to keep fighting for you. We're going to keep fighting for all of you to have the resources that you need and the respect that you deserve.
Now, I remember, in recent years, it became fashionable for some in the national media to reflexively criticize men and women of law enforcement when moments of tragedy happened. We all remember those days. And we hear the — we hear harsh comments about the brave men and women of Customs and Border Protection still too often, and of the extraordinary men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But let me assure each and every one of you: The support you receive from this President and his Vice President is just emblematic of how the American people feel.
I was out there on the range today, and I went in and watched a wrestling match — (laughter) — in the training center. And I told — I told those extraordinary trainees and trainers — I said — I said, "Look, we're with you, but you need to know the American people are with you." I hear it everywhere I go. The President hears it everywhere he goes.
So just be confident of that. Just be confident the American people appreciate the fact that, when you put that uniform on every day, you're counting their lives as more important than your own; that you're answering a calling to serve this country. Something larger than yourself defines your life.
I mean, you have no ordinary job. You don't put on your business attire and go into work every day and your family is absolutely confident you'll be home for dinner. They know it's different.
My uncle was a police officer in Chicago for 25 years. And to this day, the men and women who put on a uniform, put on a sidearm every day, are my heroes. And I just want to assure you that's how the American people feel.
Whatever might be happening in Washington, D.C., whatever the debates might be happening on cable television, just know the American people are with you, because they know the sacrifices that you make.
Last month, I was visiting CBP personnel at the Port of Baltimore, and we reflected on the sacrifices that you make and the risks that you take. We remembered a fallen member of the federal law enforcement family, Border Patrol Agent Donna Doss.
Donna lost her life doing her duty in a traffic stop along the southern border. But her sacrifice is simply emblematic of the sacrifices others have made, whose names will forever be enshrined in the hearts of the American people under this great department. But it's also proof of the danger and the risk that you take every day.
So as you continue in your work, just know that this President, his Vice President, our entire administration, and the American people are grateful. We recognize the threats that you face on our behalf every single day. We're grateful for the work that you do to protect our families and our communities. And we're going to keep fighting to make sure you have the resources and the support and the wall and the technology you need to accomplish your mission. (Applause.) It's no ordinary job.
I think law enforcement is a calling. And I can see on your faces and the quiet nods that there are people in this room that see it just that way. Every day, you serve with courage, you serve with distinction, you make America proud.
But I also want to assure you: You have our gratitude. You have our support. You have our determination to make sure that you have the resources that you need to accomplish your mission. But also, I'm very confident when I tell you, you also have the prayers of millions of Americans.
You know, the sweetest words the President and I ever hear as we travel across this country is when people will reach out and grab a hand and say, "I'm praying for you." This is a praying nation, and the American people pray for the men and women of our law enforcement community every day. And so will I.
My prayer will simply be that — in those ancient words, that in the days ahead, as you train here and as you prepare to return to the frontlines of enforcing our laws and securing our border, that "no harm [would] overtake you…no disaster [would] come near you…and that He will guard you in all your ways" as you guard and secure this great nation.
And I know, with your continued courage and service, with our President's leadership and the support of the American people, and with God's help: We will secure our border, we will end the crisis at our southern border, and we will make America safer and stronger than ever before.
So thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. (Applause.)
Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/334785