Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of conservative Christian activists Saturday night that the Democratic policy goals relating to border security are “morally wrong” and would only enable the abuse and assault of migrants being trafficked to the southern border.
Speaking at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual gala dinner at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C., Pence didn’t hold back in responding to a week filled with criticism of the Trump administration following unfavorable mainstream media reports of conditions facing migrant children at the southern border.
As conservative evangelicals continue to be chastised by Democrats for their support of the Trump administration and immigration agenda, Pence suggested to donors of the leading national conservative evangelical grassroots organization that securing the southern border and building a wall is the morally appropriate response.
“After spending the last six months denying there was a crisis at our southern border and doing nothing while our courageous and compassionate Customs and Border Protection personnel were overwhelmed by that crisis, now some Democrats want to lecture us about their moral concern,” Pence griped.
“There's nothing compassionate about refusing to change the laws that human traffickers use to take advantage of poor families,” he continued. “Those who would advocate open borders, free health care for illegal immigrants and making illegal immigration legal are making it easier for human traffickers to mistreat poor and vulnerable families. That is morally wrong. And that has got to stop.”
Pence shared that the U.S. is on track to have nearly 1 million migrants come across the southern border this year “to take advantage of loopholes in our laws.”
“And so the first time in history, the majority of them are families that are being enticed by human traffickers who charge them $5,000 a person by most estimates,” the 60-year-old former governor of Indiana stated. “They're enticed to pay cash to be taken on the long and dangerous journey north to our border.”
Pence stressed that the journey from Central America to the U.S. southern border is a dangerous one that is fraught with “unspeakable violence.”
“Seventy percent of illegal immigrants once they present at the border report being victims of violence along the way,” he told the crowd. “According to Doctors Without Borders, nearly one-third of young women traveling to our southern border from Central America are sexually assaulted on the journey.”
He voiced grievance over the death of Óscar and Valeria Martinez, whose bodies were featured in a viral photograph this week after they drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande.
“It shocked the conscience of the nation,” Pence said. “The truth is what we saw there on the front page of every newspaper in America is what’s been happening for months. People facing violence, sexual abuse and worse, being brought up by people who have no regard for human life enticing them to make the dangerous journey north.”
Pence declared that there is now a “broad national realization” of what he and President Donald Trump have been “saying for more than a year.”
“We have a crisis at our southern border. It’s like we have never seen before,” he said. “That's why President Trump declared a national emergency in January.”
He criticized House Democrats for previously turning down previous requests from the administration for additional resources to provide beds and humanitarian needs to care for the families detained after coming across the border.
“President Trump again stood strong and this week, our president negotiated a bipartisan bill that when he signs it on Monday will speed $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid to support the compassionate work of Health and Human Services and our Customs and Border Protection,” Pence stated. “Finally, help is on the way.”
Pence stressed that there is still “more work to do.”
“At a time when migrants down at our border are facing violence, sexual assault and worse, it really is astonishing that many of the leading Democrats running for president continue to advocate open borders and policies that would make it easier for human traffickers to entice vulnerable families to take the long and dangerous journey north,” he said. “It's true.”
Pence reminded attendees that a decade ago, President Barack Obama said that Obamacare would not apply to those in the country illegally.
“This week, every major Democrat candidate for president promised to offer free taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants,” Pence said, “And many others promised to decriminalize illegal immigration altogether.”
Pence stated that the “moral” and “compassionate” thing to do is to secure the border, provide humanitarian aid, reform asylum loopholes and “send a definite message south of the border that if you want to come to the United States of America, you must come legally or not at all.”
Pence added that progress is being made on Trump’s wall at the southern border and declared that 400 miles of the wall would be built by the end of next year.
“Whatever Democrats want to do to continue to deny and obstruct our efforts to secure our border, end this crisis and reform our laws, we're gonna keep telling the story,” Pence vowed. “We're going to keep finding allies in Congress and across this country. And we're going to fix this broken immigration system.”
Earlier this week, James Dobson, a prominent evangelical leader supportive of Trump’s immigration policies and plans for a border wall, issued a lengthy statement blaming liberal policies for making the humanitarian crisis at the border worse.
“It is a well-known fact that President Obama’s administration established many of these unworkable policies, and Congress is steadfastly unwilling to change them,” Dobson asserted in his July newsletter.
“Every effort at reform has been overridden or ignored. It is set in stone. Democrats want massive numbers of immigrants who will someday become voters. Some Republicans support the policies because they want cheap labor for agricultural purposes. The border could be fixed, but there are very few in authority who seem to care.”
Fellow evangelical leader, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, faced criticism this week from well-known conservative evangelicals after he retweeted an Associated Press report critical of the perilous conditions facing migrant children at the border and the Trump administration’s handling of the situation.
“The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences,” Moore tweeted. “Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this.”
On Sunday, Pence put the blame on Democrats.
"Democrats in Congress refused to expand the bed space and the capacity for us to detain people at our borders," he told CNN.