Pence Delivers a Message on Mass Migration
To South America: "The U.S. respects your borders and your sovereignty. We insist that you respect ours."
Speaking in Brazil earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a critical message on our border situation. Here are Pence’s remarks in full:
It is a privilege to be here in this extraordinary country with its vast geography, rich culture, and heritage of faith and freedom.
And I recognize, Mr. President, this is a special moment in your nation’s history. Brazil’s economy is growing again. Brazil’s democracy is vibrant and will hold national elections this October. And Brazil is addressing the critical issues that we face in the region as a true leader in this Western Hemisphere that we all call home.
And I must say, it is especially exciting to be here in the midst of the World Cup. You can literally feel the excitement in the air in Brazil. The world will be watching Brazil tomorrow in your final group match. So let me just say good luck to the Seleção.
And as I get started, as I did earlier today, allow me to bring greetings from the President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. The President asked me to be here to reaffirm the strong bond and strategic partnership between the United States of America and the Federative Republic of Brazil.
The United States and Brazil are bound together by our past and by our democratic principles. The United States was the first nation in the world to recognize Brazil’s independence nearly 200 years ago. Today, we are the two largest economies and the two largest democracies in the Americas.
And as we look toward the future, our strategic partnership is ripe with opportunity. And I believe we have an unprecedented opening to advance prosperity, security, and freedom for our peoples and across the Western Hemisphere.
It all, of course, begins with prosperity. In the United States, President Trump has taken decisive action to strengthen our economy. And since our election in 2016, we’ve seen more than 3.4 million new jobs created, companies are investing in America again. And after eight years of slow growth below 2 percent, the American economy grew by nearly 3 percent last year, and we’re just getting started.
And, Mr. President, you’ve advocated a reform agenda here in Brazil that includes capping government spending, unshackling your labor markets, and opening your energy sector. You’ve called for these policies even in the face of recession and economic hardship because you knew, the people of Brazil knew, that they would improve Brazil’s economy and international competitiveness. And so they have. We are truly grateful for your leadership.
And as the United States grows and Brazil grows, we grow together. Last year, our two-way trade stood at nearly $100 billion. And while we have a robust trading relationship, as you and I discussed earlier, more work could be done to lower trade barriers and unlock the potential of our massive economies. And we look forward to that dialogue with Brazil in the days ahead.
Today, I’m also pleased to announce that we will issue an agreement to improve cooperation between the United States and Brazil in space, as you discussed, Mr. President. As the Chairman of our National Space Council, in this new era of American leadership in space, let me personally commend Brazil for being the first nation in Latin America to partner with the United States in such a comprehensive and strategic way. And we look forward to building on this partnership in ways that will advance new technologies, create new jobs, and expand our reach in the heavens.
As we both know, as important as jobs and growth are and innovation, security is the foundation of our prosperity. And our working relationship for our mutual security is strong.
With the second-largest military in the Western Hemisphere, the defense partnership between the United States and Brazil has benefitted us both for many decades, promoting the safety of our people and the stability of the region. Last month, the United States and Brazil launched the first-ever Permanent Security Forum to integrate all elements of our law enforcement operations. And we will continue to confront the challenges facing security and stability across this region together.
There is one specific threat to our collective security that we spoke of today and I’d like to address: The ongoing collapse of one of our neighbors, Venezuela.
Once one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Venezuela is now essentially a failed state. Once rich, Venezuela is now poor. Once free, Venezuela is now oppressed. And Venezuela is not merely imploding, it is unraveling, sending shockwaves rippling across the wider region.
Venezuela’s collapse is creating a humanitarian crisis, leading to widespread deprivation, the denial of basic services, and starvation. And it’s spurred the largest cross-border mass exodus in the history of our hemisphere. More than 2 million Venezuelans have abandoned their homeland, giving drug cartels and human traffickers even new opportunities to engage in their deadly trade and exploit vulnerable families.
Tomorrow, as you mentioned, Mr. President, Karen and I will be visiting Venezuelans in a shelter in Manaus. To meet this crisis, the United States is proud to support, in the fashion of more than $20 million, efforts to come alongside Venezuelans who fled their homes. This is in addition to the more than $40 million that we’ve given to support humanitarian efforts across the region.
And, today, Mr. President, I’m pleased to announce that the United States will provide additional support of nearly $10 million to Venezuelan migrants, more than $1 million that will go directly to Brazil as you address this ongoing crisis.
Mr. President, let me say thank you. Thank you for supporting the more than 50,000 Venezuelans who have fled to Brazil to escape the deprivation and the tyranny that has beset their homeland. Thank you for your leadership in standing up to the Maduro regime, and for your partnership in the cause of democracy in that land with the United States.
To pressure the Maduro regime, and to restore democracy, the United States has issued unprecedented sanctions against the Maduro regime. We welcomed the European Union’s decision just yesterday to sanction 11 additional members of the regime. And we are especially grateful for Brazil’s strong support of economic sanctions. And we commend Brazil’s leadership in isolating the regime in Caracas.
Brazil led the effort to expel Venezuela from the regional trade organization, Mercosur, last year. You’ve played a leading role in the Lima Group since its inception. And earlier this month, you joined the U.S. to begin the process of suspending Venezuela from the Organization of American States, and we are grateful.
But now is the time for even stronger action. And, today, the United States calls on Brazil and all freedom-loving nations across our hemisphere to take further steps to isolate the Maduro regime.
In doing this, know that you will continue to have a steadfast partner in America. Our conviction is clear. Our resolve and the resolve of our President is unwavering. As long as Maduro denies democracy and basic rights to his people, Venezuela will continue to crumble, and the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer.
He has destroyed his nation’s democracy and built a brutal dictatorship. He has imprisoned political opponents and waged a campaign of violence and intimidation. He has impoverished an entire nation and cut off the most vulnerable from life-saving humanitarian aid. And as Nicolas Maduro boasts to the world of Venezuela’s success, the Venezuelan people suffer, starve, and flee.
As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not stand idly by as Venezuela crumbles. The United States will continue to stand with the good people of Venezuela. And we will continue to stand with Brazil and all of our partners across the region and the world to hold Nicolas Maduro and his government accountable. Venezuela deserves better, and the Venezuelan people deserve to reclaim their birthright of liberdade.
Mr. President, as we discussed, we believe ours was always destined to be a hemisphere of freedom. And just as we stand with the good people of Venezuela, we must also stand together to ensure that the people of every country in our region have the ability to flourish and be secure in their own homelands.
Sadly, in recent days, a flood of migrants from Central America have been entering the United States illegally. In the first six months of this year, nearly 150,000 Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans abandoned their homes and made the often-dangerous journey to the United States in the misguided belief that they could enter our country illegally.
And to all the nations of this region, let me say with great respect: Just as the United States respects your borders and your sovereignty, we insist that you respect ours.
As President Trump has said, “If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.” And under our President’s leadership, we’re investing in our border security as never before.
We’re increasing enforcement and prosecutions. We’ve begun construction on our new southern border wall. We’ve enacted the largest investment in border security in nearly a decade, and we’re hiring more personnel to enforce our laws. And Congress — and Congress is working to close the loopholes that too often serve as a magnet to vulnerable families.
President Trump is also taking action to keep families together while we enforce our laws and secure our border. And, President Temer, as you and I discussed, we are working to reunite families, including Brazilian families, who’ve been caught up in this wave of illegal immigration. And we will continue to work closely with your government to see that that happens.
But let me be clear on this point: The United States of America is the most welcoming home for immigrants in human history. My own grandfather sailed past the Statue of Liberty before arriving at Ellis Island. And in the last year alone, our country welcomed more than 1.1 million legal immigrants to our country and our communities.
The United States is proud of this legacy. We’re proud to be a nation of laws and a nation with recognized and respected borders, as well.
We also want the people of our hemisphere to have a chance to build a better life for themselves in the land of their birth. That’s why, under President Trump, the United States is renewing our commitment to address the root causes behind the crisis that we face.
At this moment, the United States has invested significant resources already to help Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador stop the flow of drugs and cripple the criminal syndicates that plague the region.
Our Coast Guard is intercepting drug runners on the open seas. Our support enabled Costa Rica and Panama to seize more than 107 million metric tons of cocaine last year alone, significantly more than the year before. And across Central America, in conjunction with our regional partners, we’re bringing criminals and gang members to justice as never before.
And the American taxpayer, demonstrating the compassion of our people, has also devoted more than $2.6 billion over the last four years to help Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador rebuild their economies and strengthen the rule of law in their nations. And there have been good results.
We’ve actually seen the creation of nearly 3,000 [30,000] jobs through economic assistance in those countries. And we’re mobilizing a billion dollars to improve the region’s economies and infrastructure as we speak. We’re training law enforcement officers and judges across the region to eliminate corruption, enforce the rule of law, and crack down on trafficking and crime.
But the United States cannot do this alone. And I will deliver this message personally to the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador when we meet in Guatemala City on Thursday. These nations must take new and renewed steps to confront the drug trafficking and corruption that besets them and strengthen their economies for the sake of their people.
But the truth is, all the nations of our Hemisphere have got to help to ensure the stability of our neighbors. And so today, on behalf of the United States, I say to our strong ally here in Brazil, and to all the freedom-loving nations across the Americas: The time has come to do more.
And lastly, to the people of Central America, I have a message for you, straight from my heart, and straight from the heart of the American people:
You are our neighbors. We want you and your nations to prosper and thrive across Central America. Don’t risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on a road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers. If you can’t come legally, don’t come at all. If someone tells you they can bring your child to America, don’t believe them. Hold on to your children. Build your lives in your homeland. And be confident that your neighbors in the United States and across this New World are all working together to ensure a brighter future for all of the nations of this hemisphere.
Mr. President, thank you again for hosting me and my wife and making us feel so welcome. As I prepare to leave, I do so with renewed confidence that the United States and Brazil will achieve great and groundbreaking progress in the days ahead for our mutual security, for our prosperity, and for the advance of freedom in our hemisphere.
As we work toward this vision, I do so also with faith. Knowing the deep-faith tradition of the people of Brazil and of the American people, I know that we will see this hemisphere of freedom become a reality for all nations, because, as the Bible says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
And with the commitment of Brazil, with your leadership and all your good people, with the leadership of President Donald Trump, and the conviction and support of the American people, and with God’s help, I know that our future is bright — brighter than ever before –- and America and Brazil will meet that bright future together.
Mr. President, thank you again. God bless you. God bless Brazil. And God bless the United States of America.