Mike Pence photo

The Vice President's News Conference in McAllen, Texas

July 12, 2019

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much for being here so that we could see for ourselves what the President and I have been saying from the very beginning: that there's a crisis here on our southern border.

Our first stop today was at a facility dealing with families with children, and there we saw compassionate care for families that have been swept up in this wave of illegal immigration coming to our southern border.

I was deeply moved to see the care that our Customs and Border Protection personnel are providing. Coming here, to this station, where single adults are held, I've equally been inspired by the efforts of Customs and Protection doing a tough job in a difficult environment. But the truth is, what's witnessed here today, and the overcrowding of this border station, and the overall crisis at our border, is that Congress must do more.

From the very first day of this year, President Trump has taken action to address the crisis at our border. We declared an emergency so we can begin to build a wall.

We called on Mexico to do more than ever before. And I stand before you today, we've actually seen more than a 25 percent reduction in the last 30 days in the number of illegal immigrants coming across our border. And we believe that's largely owing to the efforts that Mexico has made. And President Trump and I are truly grateful for the efforts of the Mexican government deploying their national guard to their southern border and to ours, and enforcing checkpoints throughout Mexico.

The President also called on the Congress. And with the support of these members of Congress and bipartisan support, we were able to negotiate $4.6 billion in additional humanitarian support to provide for what should be evident to the American people today is a crisis that is overwhelming our system.

To be here today, to see the families at the first facility that have been swept up in this wave of migration driven by human traffickers who were exploiting vulnerable families in Central America was deeply moving. To be here today at this facility and to see that the overcrowding is such to the extent that a temporary facility had to be built.

Now, you'll hear details today, and I know you already have, that care is being provided. Healthcare, resources, sustenance, shelter, are being provided to all of the people that we saw detained today.

But I expect it's evident to the American people that what we've been saying all along is true. For all of the noble work our Customs and Border Protection personnel are doing every day — securing our border, preventing the flow of illegal immigrants, preventing the flow of illegal drugs across our border — they're also, every day, saving lives and providing compassionate care to people that have been caught up in the present crisis. But Congress must do more.

I must tell you, walking through this facility today, I wanted to see the overflow facility — because we asked Democrats in Congress for more beds, and they gave us only a fraction of what the President requested. In fact, in the first budget that our administration submitted to Congress more than two years ago, we requested more beds then.

But the truth is, here at the McAllen station, they're operating within the very careful guidelines for detaining these single adults. And there's only a certain number of people that can be kept in a particular section or cell. And so you saw the makeshift facility that's been set up today. That's the overcrowding President Trump has been talking about. That's the overwhelming of the system that some in Congress have said was a manufactured crisis.

But now I think the American people can see this crisis is real. The time for action is now. And the time has come to stop the irresponsible rhetoric about the way that people are being cared for and treated who are being detained in our facilities.

This is tough work. It's overwhelming our system. It's overcrowded here at McAllen. This is the center — the epicenter — of the crisis on the southern border.

Our Customs and Border Protection are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, but they need help. And the help is, precisely, to change the laws that human traffickers are using to entice the vulnerable families that we saw today to make the long and dangerous journey north, so that Customs and Border Protection can focus on individuals, like many of which we just saw that actually are just coming into this country illegally, have no interest in applying for asylum, are not bringing vulnerable children with them. They're just illegal immigrants.

That's what we pay the Customs and Border Protection personnel to deal with, along with preventing drugs and contraband. And by bringing about the changes in the law that Senator Graham and these senators have been advocating, the President has been calling for, we can fix this. And the American people expect nothing less.

Senator Graham?

(Event participants give opening remarks.)

* * * * *

(Question-and-answer session commences.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Questions?

Q: Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming to the Valley. You've been here; this is your second time in the Valley, taking the tour. And I wanted to know, what is the difference that you see from the last time you came to now? And all of these people are flowing into our backyard. Will the Valley (inaudible) from the federal government?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, my only impression on my visits here is that things have gotten worse. And they've gotten worse in the nature of people that are coming across the border. And that's — for the first time ever, the vast majority of people that are coming across our border are families with vulnerable children or individuals who are presenting themselves with children that they represent to be in their family. Although, we heard today about hundreds of cases of fraud, where children were literally cycled through a system to help people come in and were prosecuted for that.

So this is — what I can tell you is that help is on the way. The President drove hard to get a bipartisan humanitarian aid bill through the Congress — $4.6 billion. We're deploying those resources as we speak. And we'll continue to deploy them to deal with this — what is the epicenter of the crisis on our southern border here in the Rio Grande Valley.

But make no mistake about it: The real answer is to have Congress act. And we'll continue to press — the President and I will continue to press for Congress to take up legislation that takes the tool away that human traffickers use to entice these vulnerable families that we talk to today into coming on this long and dangerous journey north.

To hear a little girl tell me in her native tongue it took her two months walking here, and another little boy say, "It took me three months" was — it's just heartbreaking to me as a parent. And to know that there are human traffickers that are exploiting them for financial gain and putting them at that risk is unacceptable. But we got to take that tool away, and that'll be the best way we can help the Valley.

Q: Mr. Vice President —


Q: Mr. Vice President, we just saw 384 men outside — we saw them briefly too —


Q: — sleeping on concrete, no pillows, no — nowhere to basically (inaudible). Some of them said they were thirsty. Some of them said they hadn't showered in 10, 20, 30 days. Some of them were pretty (inaudible). Does that meet this administration's standard for how we take care of people?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, what we saw at the first facility was deeply inspiring — a facility that was constructed for families with children. The individuals that are incarcerated here are adults, predominantly men.

And what you saw today was that the facility here in McAllen is overwhelmed.

Now, I want to ask the Secretary to come up and speak about the level of care because I wouldn't take the word of people that are being detained here in McAllen for how they're being treated, but I'm very confident that they're being provided with shelter and water and food and access to healthcare and access to hygiene.

But as I said on the way here, we expected to see this facility overcrowded, and it is. That's why the President asked for more resources for beds and was denied the funding level that we requested.

But I'm going to ask the Secretary to come up —

Q: What you saw, Mr. Vice President — may I ask you — of what you saw, were you okay with that? Was that — does that mean your standards for this administration, for (inaudible)?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I'm not okay with is people on Capitol Hill, as recently as this morning, saying this is a manufactured crisis.

What I'm not okay with is Democrats in Congress slandering the courageous work of our Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection under overwhelming circumstances in trying to care for people that are being swept up in this crisis on our border. A temporary —

Q: Would you (inaudible)?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: A temporary facility — look, this is tough stuff. But as the Secretary can illuminate, and maybe Rudy can step up as well, we're operating within the guidelines of the number of people that can be held in individual cells. And when we have overflow, as we do in an overwhelmed system, the need for those temporary facilities is evident.

And so, let me let the Secretary address it, but to be honest with you, I was not surprised by what I saw. And — because on the way here, I knew we would see a system that is overcrowded. It's overwhelmed, and that's why Congress has to act.

Secretary, can you speak to the level —


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me — have him address the care issue.

(Event participants speak.)

(Question-and-answer session continues.)

Q: Senator, Mr. Vice President —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Go ahead, please.

Q: — thank you for talking to the media today. CBP did a great job in, you know, talking about the experiences they encounter every single day.


Q: And the humanitarian crisis is important, but they also spoke about border security. Will the Valley, will the border, see any ICE apprehensions in this area or in any cities anytime soon?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the individuals that we just witnessed here at the McAllen facility have been apprehended at the border. These are not individuals —

Q: Right, but (inaudible).

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And these are not individuals I'm informed that are presenting or making an asylum claim. These are people that were apprehended by the Border Patrol, attempting to come into our country illegally. And they're being detained here and being processed here.

But they're part of — when you add to that the number of families with children that represent the majority of the mass migration at our border, that's the nature of the overwhelmed system that you have. So you'll continue to see — I promise you, you'll continue to see Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection doing their job, securing our border. We're building additional wall even as we speak. We're deploying additional resources. We're deploying additional humanitarian support. We're going to keep doing our job. But to stem this crisis of illegal immigration that's coming out of Central America, we have to have Congress act.

Q: Mr. Vice President —


Q: Just a couple quick things. Did you talk to any of the adult migrants? I know you talked to a couple of the children and mothers.


Q: (Inaudible.) You talked to adult migrants?


Q: And what did they tell you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I asked them about their care, and they said they were —

Q: (Inaudible) here.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: They said they were being taken care of.

I didn't have the opportunity to speak directly, given the nature of this facility. But I thought it was important that we all saw it and saw all of it. This facility is overcrowded. And I was told by the Secretary, the President has been told by the Secretary, that this system is overwhelmed. And we want the American people to know that.

Now, the level of care — this facility is clean and people are being provided with sustenance and shelter and hygiene. But this is tough stuff, when you have a system that's being overrun, literally, by a crisis at our southern border.

My hope is that today — and I think the President's hope today — is by bringing along not only these members of Congress and the Senate along, but also bringing the American people along, that we'll end all this discussion about a manufactured crisis and we'll get to solutions that, as the President said many times, we could come up with in about an hour.

We know what needs to be done. We know how to take the tools away from human traffickers, what they're using to convince people to take their kids or to make the long and dangerous journey north. And we'll continue to drive for that.

Q: Mr. Vice President —


Q: Mr. Vice President, you continually blame the Democrats, and most of you have talked about how Congress needs to act, but it's your party that was in control of Congress not that long ago. And still, your party couldn't get it done. So what makes you think that anything is going to change now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as you saw, the President has been driving hard for border security since the first day of this administration. We were requesting, in early 2017, in our first budget, additional detention beds for ICE. And those were opposed in the legislative process by Democrats.

The President declared a national emergency the first of this year so we could build a wall on the southern border. And we're busy doing that even as we speak. The President took a strong stand with Mexico.

You know, the truth is, Mexico is doing more today to end the crisis on our southern border than Democrats in Congress are doing. And we just got — we've got to move past — it is — you know, as — you know, Josh, you just asked a second ago if I'm okay with what I saw. Well, the President and I wouldn't have been clamoring for more support for the Department of Homeland Security if we were okay with the current level of funding.

It took months of demanding that the Congress give us additional humanitarian aid so we could deal with this crisis. And month after month after month, we had to listen to Democrats saying that it's a manufactured crisis. And it was only very recently that they accepted the fact that the crisis is real, which should be obvious to the American people today, as our system is overcrowded, it's overwhelmed. The crisis is real.

We negotiated $4.6 billion in resources that we're deploying. And we needed it. But we understand that one funding bill after another is not going to solve this crisis if people in Central America still believe that the loopholes in our law allow them, if they bring their children on this dangerous journey north, allow them to come and stay. That's what has to change for the sake of the American people and, frankly, for the sake of vulnerable families in Central America.

(Event participants speak.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: One more. Please.

Q: Could this administration be doing more to reach out to Democrats or (inaudible)?


SENATOR GRAHAM: We invited them today.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me be clear: When the President asked me to come to the border after we saw some really slanderous reporting about Customs and Border Protection, the President said, "I want you to go down there. I want you to see these facilities where families are being held." And he said, "I want you to bring the cameras." And we did.

And different from the reporting a few weeks ago where we heard about little children that were being denied toothbrushes, we saw — we saw stacks of supplies, we spoke to cheerful children who were watching television, having snacks. They told us that they were being well taken care of — every child and every parent that I asked.

But we also wanted to come here, to where single adults, illegal immigrants who have been apprehended at our border are brought, just to show the American people that while we have this new facility that's been established for families, that, here, this facility is overcrowded and overwhelmed. And the other facility had nearly 1,000 people in it.

So we've reached out to Democrats in the Congress. We asked them to come on this trip. When we approached Senator Graham about making this trip, he invited all the Republicans and all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — the committee that has jurisdiction over this very aspect of our government. Not a single Democrat came.

Now, we're hearing today that Democrats want to make the trip on their own. And I promise you, our administration will support that. We'll assist them in coming down here. And we expect that they'll see the same thing we saw, and that is that the crisis is real, the system is overcrowded, but our Customs and Border Protection personnel are doing and honorable and noble and compassionate job under very difficult circumstances every single day.

But they can't — they can't deal with this crisis alone. That's why we've called on Mexico to step up, that's why we're building a wall. We've gotten additional humanitarian aid, but ultimately — ultimately, what you've heard here from all of us and what should be evident to the American people is the way to solve this crisis is to reform our asylum laws in a very straightforward manner. And I really believe most Democrats in Congress know that.

I mean, you look at what's happening at this border. If you get away from the politics of Washington, D.C. and just focus on the facts of what's happening here, like President Trump says, we could solve this problem in about an hour. Because we know what the human traffickers use to exploit these families.

They take roughly $5,000 cash, per person, to take them on the long and dangerous journey north because they explain to them the loopholes that are in our law. By closing those loopholes in our laws, we can — we can take a giant step toward ending this crisis and allowing these extraordinary men and women of Customs and Border Protection to focus on the job they were hired to do, which is securing our border, protecting our nation from the flow of illegal drugs and the contraband across our border.

With that said, I want to thank you all for being here, and I want to thank these senators. And have a good day.

Mike Pence, The Vice President's News Conference in McAllen, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/334438

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