Remarks by Vice President Pence in a Press Gaggle
July 10, 2019
Freitas Family Farm
THE VICE PRESIDENT: – – to be with such a great, enthusiastic crowd. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most dynamic agricultural regions in the United States. California, of course, has the most diverse agricultural economy of any state in the union. So to be here and to hear the enthusiasm for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was very encouraging.
We have a tremendous opportunity to add to the momentum in our economy – an economy that in the last two and a half years has produced 6 million jobs, including 800,000 jobs here in California.
But President Trump and I believe that by approving the USMCA we'll add even more momentum to that. We believe the early projections are, is that it will create as many as 176,000 new jobs, increase our agricultural exports by billions of dollars.
And so, we're calling on Speaker Pelosi, we're calling on the Democratic leadership in the House, to pass the USMCA, to bring it before the Congress, if not this summer, before the end of this year.
The USMCA is a win for American farmers. It's a win for California. It's a win for America. And we're calling on the Congress, we're calling on Speaker Pelosi here in California, to heed the voice of these farmers, recognize the tremendous opportunity that we have to expand and grow our agricultural economy, and ratify the USMCA this year.
Q Mr. Vice President, what are the legitimate chances of getting Speaker Pelosi (inaudible)?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're actually very encouraged by the discussions that are underway with Speaker Pelosi and Democrat leaders in the House. Even today, our team is back on Capitol Hill negotiating what's known as the "implementing legislation." And our sense is that we're not that far apart.
Look, the USMCA has some of the most significant labor provisions of any trade agreement in American history. It includes some of the most stringent environmental protections of any trade agreement in history. And we believe it has much to endorse it – to conservatives, to progressives, to everybody in between. And so, we remain optimistic. We believe if Speaker Pelosi brings the USMCA to the floor of the Congress, it will pass.
But I came here to California to meet with all these great farmers and to let them know how important their voice, here in California, would be to advancing this vitally important trade deal. And we're very, very confident that if they bring it to the floor of the Congress, it will pass, it'll move to the President's desk, and we'll have a great win for American farmers and American workers.
Q Mr. Vice President what's the White House's solution for the ag labor problem?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a growing economy. We've literally added 6 million new jobs over the last two and a half years. And President Trump and I recognize that in many places in the country, whether it be in the city or on the farm, that we're facing labor shortages. The good news for that is that we're seeing wages rise across the country in ways more dramatically than they have in more than a decade. In fact, blue-collar working Americans are seeing the most rapid increase in wages that they've seen.
But we think the answer going forward – to workforce issues in the city and on the farm – is, of course, vocational education and training, which the President has engaged with industry leaders across the country to make new and renewed investments in, And ultimately modernizing our immigration system so that it operates in way that's based upon merit and puts the needs of the American economy and the American farmer and American businesses first.
We've begun to outline to members of Congress what that immigration reform ultimately looks like, and we'll continue to drive forward.
We have a crisis on our southern border. We're taking dramatic steps to address that crisis. I'll be in McAllen, Texas, before the end of the week, visiting a detention center there with members of the United States Senate.
We're going to lean into this crisis. We're going to call on Congress to close the loopholes that are driving this crisis. But at the end of the day, we know we've got to fix this broken immigration system so that we can meet the needs of this growing economy in the city and on the farm. And we're committed to doing just that.
Q Mr. Vice President, there's a shortage, obviously, in labor. This is an area that a lot of – the percentage of undocumented workers is very high. And how would that affect this agreement (inaudible)?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the USMCA is going to be a win for California. In fact, as I've talked to people involved in dairy farming in this region, we think that the USMCA alone will increase dairy exports form this country by as much as $300 million.
The fact is that Canada had begun to engage in trade practices that were working as a disadvantage against American dairy farmers. The USMCA ends that.
And so, overall, we recognize, if the USMCA is ratified, that in the San Joaquin Valley, all of California, American agriculture is going to be more prosperous. And that's going to benefit everybody working (inaudible).
Q Mr. Vice President –
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q – please allow me to ask questions not related, but I think if you would think it's important as a man of faith. You understand that a lot of the – in China, this year marks the 20 years' anniversary of the Chinese government's persecution of Falun Gong – the spiritual movement. And even people here – I just met some people – they are here now, but they still affected by Chinese government's persecution policy, which has extended to here.
So at this 20 years' anniversary, what would you like to say to, you know, people here in America and also to the Chinese government who just (inaudible) a horrendous crime in which the Peoples' Tribunal in London just had judgment saying the organ harvesting of people of (inaudible) is true. And (inaudible) practitioners.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, America is a beacon of freedom for all the world. And our administration has spoken out on, particularly, about religious liberty around the world. There'll at another ministerial conference in Washington, D.C. next week. We'll be addressing these issues in China and, frankly, all over the world. And we'll continue to stand for that.
In America, the ideals that are enshrined in our Declaration, in our Constitution, in our Bill of Rights, are not just cherished by the American people, but they inspire the world. And we'll continue to advocate those in every way around the world.
Our relationship with China, obviously, is complex and will continue to be the subject of great attention by this administration. The President has made it very clear that the trading practices that China has engaged in over the last several decades is no longer acceptable. Not just the massive trade deficit, but issues like forced technology transfers, intellectual property – all have to be addressed.
We made it clear that China has to change. China has to be wiling to step forward and embrace that change. And we really believe that by joining the family of nation, we'll see progress in a broad range of areas within China and across the region.
Q Mr. Vice President, two questions for you if you don't mind.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, Josh, go ahead.
Q First, Alex Acosta today had a long press conference. I think you were on stage while he was talking. He basically, you know, defended his actions in the Jeffrey Epstein plea, which has the world watching. And – you know, but he refused to kind of apologize to the victims. Do you have concerns as a dad, as a father, of how he handled that case? Should he be serving in this administration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There can be no tolerance in America for sexual abuse of children. And this administration is glad to see the Southern District of New York bringing the prosecution against Jeffrey Epstein. And we believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
We welcome Secretary Acosta's explanation to the country today about the basis for the plea agreement eight years ago – a plea agreement that resulted in a guilty plea and jail time and restitution. But we also agree strongly with Secretary Acosta that the crimes that Jeffrey Epstein admitted to were horrific. The crimes he's been alleged of now are horrific. And we welcome the new prosecution. There just can be no tolerance whatsoever for sexual abuse of children in this –
Q Does he have the confidence of the administration? Secretary Acosta.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, every member of our Cabinet serves at the pleasure of the President. But we were pleased to see Secretary Acosta step forward, explain the basis for the plea agreement that they reached in 2008 – that his team in the U.S. Attorney's Office reached in 2008. And again, we will continue to call on and support in every appropriate way the full prosecution of this case against Jeffrey Epstein.
We got to protect our kids. And we got to make it clear to those who would prey upon the children that there is no tolerance for sexual or physical abuse of our children.
Q The other question is about how healthcare at the border, sir. There's been a lot of concerns of this administration with some of the conditions for children and how the children have been handled. You know, some pretty squalid images down at the border. You know, folks obviously dying in the river.
What is this administration doing to actually improve the health conditions for children on the border? And has it responded forcefully enough? Have you guys responded forcefully enough when you see these images all over television?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Josh, for the question.
We have a crisis on our southern border. President Trump and I have been making that point for the last six months. It's the reason why the President used his authority to declare a national emergency, to start building a wall on the southern border. It's the reason why the President threatened tariffs against Mexico and demanded that Mexico do more to secure their border and ours. And now Mexico is doing more than ever before and has contributed significantly to this last month's decline – a 28 percent decline in the number of migrants that have come across our border. We attribute, in some measure, to Mexico's efforts, and we're grateful for that.
But we also are grateful to Speaker Pelosi and the leadership in both parties that just approved $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid to support the efforts of our Customs and Border Protection.
But make no mistake about it: Our detention facilities are overwhelmed. I expect to see that when I visit McAllen, Texas – one of the busiest areas along our southern border – on Friday of this week. And Congress needs to do more. Any allegations of abuse of children, or lack of proper care, I know are being properly investigated and vetted by the Department of Homeland Security.
But I do anticipate seeing that the detention facility is going to be overwhelmed and overflowing. Because the month before last, we had more than 100,000 people in a single month that came across our border. And for the first time ever, the majority of them were families bringing children. Our system was simply never designed to deal with this. And our Customs and Border Protection have been doing compassionate work at our border, providing care to people who have made the long and dangerous journey north.
And, remember, these people coming north from Central America are being enticed by human traffickers who take American cash to bring them north of the border. And in the majority of cases, people are physically abused, women are sexually abused on the journey north. And at our border, our Customs and Border Protection are proving care and compassion.
It is really contemptable that some in Congress have referred to U.S. detention facilities as concentration camps. But that's an outrage. The Nazis killed people. Our Customs and Border Protection personnel save lives every day.
And when we visit McAllen, Texas, today – or this week, we're going to not only bring members of the Senate in, but we're going to bring the cameras in, and we're going to let people see the facility – a facility that is providing care, providing hygiene, providing healthcare and support. But we're also going to see a system that is overwhelmed.
That's why the Congress has to take one more step, and that is close the loopholes in our asylum laws that human traffickers are using to exploit vulnerable families. It's the catch-and-release laws that we have and those practices that human traffickers market to vulnerable families to entice them to pay money to make the long and dangerous journey north. That's what has to stop.
We've got more humanitarian aid flowing to the border. Our Customs and Border Protection are working their hearts out with diligence and compassion and care. Mexico is doing more than ever before. We're building more wall every day. But ultimately, we have to close the loopholes in our asylum laws to end the crisis at our southern border.
And we're going to continue to call on the Congress to work with us to reform our asylum laws and to take that – to take that magnet away that human traffickers are using to exploit vulnerable families.
Once we address that crisis, let me be clear: We're going to fix this broken immigration system once and for all.
Q Mr. Vice President, your reaction today to Governor Newsom signing into law a ball that would give undocumented immigrants access to healthcare in California?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, again, let's be clear: Human traffickers are enticing people to make the long and dangerous journey north, by loopholes in our laws.
And, frankly, offering free healthcare, as many Democrats have done, offering to make illegal immigration legal, policies that amount to open borders, will only empower human traffickers to exploit more families. It's the wrong policy.
A nation without borders is not a nation. And President Trump and I are absolutely determined to secure our borders, to provide compassionate and humanitarian care to those who present themselves at our borders, and to reform our laws and take the tools away. But offering free healthcare to illegal immigrants is not the answer, and it'll make things worse.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|