11:58 A.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Chief. Thank you for those kind words of welcome. And why don’t you all join me in congratulating Chief Chavez for her new assignment right here. (Applause.) I’m just — I’m grateful for a 22-year veteran of Customs and Border Protection now being the Chief Patrol Agent here in this vitally important sector.
And to Acting Chief Carla Provost, thank you for your extraordinary leadership as the Acting Chief of this vital agency in the life of our nation. Would you join me in thanking Chief Provost for her great leadership? (Applause.)
To Director Pete Flores, Director Sylvia Carrizoza, and to all of you — to the brave men and women of Homeland Security, from Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations, Office of Field Operations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Enforcement and Removal Operations — is my great honor to stand with so many great and brave American heroes in California’s Imperial Valley here at El Centro Station. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.)
And as I begin today, allow me to bring greetings from a great champion of America’s law enforcement in the United States, but someone who is a great, great admirer for everyone who sees to the security of the homeland and the border of this nation. I bring greetings from a tireless champion of border security for all of the American people, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I know the President’s commitment to the men and women of Border Patrol was on full display when he visited Southern California not too long ago. As the President said on that day, and many times I’ve heard him say again and again, we recognize you’ve got a tough job. In many respects, you’ve got a dangerous job. And the American people understand it, and this President and I understand it, as well.
We’re grateful to each and every one of you. The President has called all of you heroes who inspire our country with your courage and your patriotism every single day. And I want to assure you, from the President on down, we’re going to keep standing strong with the men and women who defend the border of the United States of America. (Applause.)
As I stand before you today, much of the nation’s attention has been focused on the so-called “caravan,” which has made its way up from Central America, and now, with some 150 people, has arrived at the American border.
As President Trump said on Saturday night, this situation is a direct result of our weak immigration laws and our porous border. This caravan, like those who have gone before, is also rightly understood as a deliberate attempt to undermine the laws of this country and the sovereignty of the United States.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Mexican government, the caravan has been reduced from thousands to less than 150 that are at our border today. And make no mistake about it — and I say this from my heart: Every American should understand these people are victims. They’re being exploited by open-border political activists and an agenda-driven media. And in far too many cases, on this day and every day that’s preceded it, men and women and children, like those gathered at our border today, are exploited by human smugglers and criminal and drug cartels who seize of their hardship and difficulty to undermine our laws and to profit for themselves.
All of this cries out for action. And thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, we are protecting the American people by securing our southern border, and we are building a wall on the southern border of the United States of America. And let me make you a promise: When it comes to the border wall, we’re going to build it all. (Applause.)
Now, for years, you Border Agents have recognized the need for a physical barrier on the southern border. You’ve been asking for a tall, strong wall system to fortify the nearly three-mile stretch of border that runs through Calexico, because this region channels so much of the illegal immigration, criminal activity, and illicit drugs that flow into Southern California and spread across the nation.
This afternoon, it will be my privilege to travel to Calexico to see the 30-foot high wall that’s being built there. I’m told the crews are working around the clock to finish this new wall, installing as many as 50 new panels every single day. And I look forward to seeing the progress firsthand.
With President Trump in the White House, I know you all know you have a leader who not only is listening to each and every one of you, and standing with each and every one of you, but he’s also standing on the conviction that walls work. And we will prove it when we complete this section again.
But let’s be clear — as we think about the hardship of those families gathered at our border in the so-called caravan, this wall is not only necessary to support you men and women who are on the frontlines of our homeland security, but it’s also a physical manifestation of the determination of the American people to protect our borders and protect our sovereignty. And we will complete it. (Applause.)
But as we all know — and you better than me — it’s not just about building the wall. The truth is our immigration laws today are ineffective, and they invite inhumane results. As the President said earlier today in the Oval Office, we call on the Congress to close deadly immigration loopholes that are exploited by terrorists, traffickers, and criminals. And we do so again today.
Whether it be the catch-and-release program or asylum policies that don’t require people to stay in the first safe country in which they arrive, we’re calling on Congress to work with us to bring about change. And it’s change that recognizes the hardship that is placed not just on the American people, but by those who by virtue of these lax immigration laws are emboldened to make a long and dangerous journey to come to the American border. The truth is these laws create an incentive for vulnerable families, and those who would exploit them, to make that long journey up the peninsula.
But let me make you a promise: Under this President, this administration, we will not rest until Congress passes legislation that will modernize our immigration laws and remove the message and the incentive of people to the south to try to enter our country by any means. (Applause.)
That means cracking down on catch-and-release. It means ending chain migration and the visa lottery. It means cracking down on sanctuary cities and closing those dangerous loopholes. And it also means fully funding that border wall system so that all of you have the resources that you need to protect our families and go home safe to yours.
The President and I both know the challenges you face every day are enormous. Every day, our Border Patrol agents apprehend more than 1,100 people illegally entering our country. And here in the Imperial Valley, in the last fiscal year alone, you apprehended more than 18,000 illegal aliens. Many of them come from all over the world to exploit the gaps in our southwest border.
Weak and unprotected borders also provide easy access for violent criminal organizations and drug cartels trying to infiltrate our country and threaten our families and our communities.
Every single day, across all of America’s borders and ports of entry, the Department of Homeland Security, I’m also told, refuses entry to seven individuals who are known or suspected to be connected with terrorist organizations.
And the dangers are only growing. In Fiscal Year 2017, we’re informed that attacks on our Border Patrol agents actually increased by 73 percent. And this very sector has the highest number of assaults on agents anywhere on our southern border. Last year alone, across the Imperial Valley, El Centro agents seized 3.8 tons of illicit drugs in the midst of that rising violence against them.
But let me say, the assaults on our Border Patrol agents must end. The assaults and the violence on our agents will end. (Applause.)
The American people know each and every one of you, the frontline officers and agents who secure our borders, are heroes. You deserve the support of the nation.
I’m pleased that, last year, President Trump signed into the law the largest increase in border security in nearly 10 years, investing new resources in detention facilities, new technology, and more.
And under our administration, thanks to the President’s leadership and the courage of all of you gathered here and all you represent, I’m pleased to report that illegal crossings at our southern border have fallen by more than 40 percent in the past 12 months. Job well done, men and women. (Applause.)
But we’re just getting started; I can assure you of that. And we’re going to keep the pressure on leaders in both parties in the Congress to do their job. And we’re going to take every step necessary to protect our border.
A few weeks ago, as you all are aware, President Trump sent National Guard units to provide vital assistance to those of you on the frontlines of border security in the air and on the ground that our Border Patrol agents will have the support that you need to focus on the immediate job at hand. To date, we’re pleased that nearly 1,000 Guardsmen have deployed across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and more are on the way.
In the days ahead, we’re informed that upwards to 250 Guardsmen will be deployed across Southern California to help secure the border, improve operational readiness, and strengthen your ability to respond to security threats across the Imperial Valley.
On behalf of the President, I want to thank the governors who have stepped forward to be full partners with our administration to secure our border and give our frontline officers the resources and support you need and deserve. They’re putting America first, and we are grateful for these Guardsmen and their leaderships and their states for partnering with us in our national and homeland security.
And lastly, we’re grateful to all of you. Our southern border is nearly 2,000 miles long. And here in El Centro Sector, you’re responsible for securing 71 miles stretching from Jacumba Mountains in the west to the Imperial Sand Dunes in the east. The vast territory you patrol is 940 square miles; it includes mountains and valleys, deserts, and farmland, the All-American Canal, and the New River.
As a sign of the strong partnerships along our borders, the seamless integration of neighboring Border Patrol sectors, I’m pleased to report that we’re joined today by Border agents from Yuma Sector, who patrol an additional 126 miles of border. To the Yuma Sector team, thank you for being with us today to demonstrate the strong, strong partnership between sectors. (Applause.)
Now, we all recognize you all, and our friends in the Yuma Sector, you supervise some of the toughest terrain in the country. But looking out at all of you, I know that tough terrain is only matched by the toughness of the men and women that I’m looking at today.
The truth is America is safer and more secure because of all of you, because of the sacrifices that and your families make every day when you put on the uniform and you head to your assigned duties along our border.
You are, in every sense, the men and women who stand on that rampart and protect the sovereignty of our nation. And you have our thanks.
America is safer and more secure because of your courage and your dedication. And President Trump, and every American family, is grateful for your service.
As we continue to fight every day for an immigration system that puts America first, just know this: We will always stand with the men and women who stand on the front lines to protect the homeland. You’ve answered the call to service. We’ll answer the call to stand with you. I promise you that.
In the very words of Homeland Security’s Mission Statement, each and every one of you serve with honor and integrity to “safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.” And I promise you the American people are proud of you and grateful for you every day.
So let me just ask God’s blessings on each one of you, as you serve, that He might watch over you and protect you as you stand, too often, in harm’s way to protect this great nation.
And let me make you a promise: With your continued courage and commitment, and that of your families, with President Donald Trump in the White House, with the strong support of the American people, and with God’s help, I know we will secure this border. I know we will stand with our sovereignty. We will make America safe again. And we’ll have all of you to thank.
So thank you for your service to the United States of America. God bless and protect each and every one of you. And may God bless the United States of America. It’s an honor to be here with you. (Applause.)
12:14 P.M. PDT