(CNSNews.com) - In a speech at the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Vice President Mike Pence called on the leaders of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to tell their people that if they can’t enter the United States legally, don’t come at all.
“We also need all the nations in the region to reinforce a very simple message to your people, and it’s a message from the heart. That is, the leaders in this room and the governments that you represent should tell your people: ‘Don’t put your families at risk by taking the dangerous journey north to attempt to enter the United States illegally,’” Pence said.
“The truth is, your message can probably be summed up by telling them that if they can’t come to the United States legally, they should not come at all. And say it with strength and say it with compassion as neighbors as friends, cause it’s the truth,” the vice president said.
Pence praised the leaders for the progress they’ve made so far to combat illegal immigration in the U.S. and transnational gangs.
“Let me acknowledge the progress. [Honduran] President [Juan Orlando] Hernandez, thank you for appointing Attorney General Oscar Chinchilla, a strong defender of the rule of law. This is an important step to root out corruption and defeat the criminal networks within your borders. Honduras has also committed double the number of frontier police by 2020 from 400 to 800, and we are grateful for these actions and grateful for your leadership,” he said.
“[Guatemalen] President [Jimmy] Morales, the United States is grateful that your first lady will launch a public messaging campaign warning people not to enter the United States illegally, and [Salvadoran] Vice President [Oscar] Ortiz, we want to thank you for partnering with U.S. law enforcement to identify more than 700 gang members since May of 2017. Thanks to our combined efforts, I’m pleased to report we’ve made 60 arrests of criminal ringleaders just in the past year,” Pence said.
“Finally, all three countries have agreed to deploy more law enforcement officials to the joint Border Intelligence Group, which will allow us to share law enforcement information, stop criminals from crossing our borders to escape justice. We need each of you to follow through on that commitment, but we are grateful for the efforts that you have taken thus far,” the vice president said.
Pence started his speech detailing the increase or decrease of illegal immigrants traveling from each country into the U.S.
“Over the last year, more than 225,000 Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans have left their homes and made the often dangerous journey to attempt to illegally enter the southern border of the United States. They accounted for more than half of all illegal immigrants apprehended at our southern border last year, and these numbers are growing,” he said.
“The number of people from El Salvador who tried to enter the United States illegally has declined, but the number from Honduras is up 61 percent. The number from Guatemala has increased by 75 percent. Our administration through our Department of Homeland Security has taken and will continue to take decisive action to confront this crisis,” the vice president added.
Pence said the United States is enforcing its immigration laws “with renewed vigor and resources.” The Trump administration is also working with Congress to close loopholes that human traffickers exploit and to “stem the flow of illegal immigration and drugs,” he said.
But the United States and Central America “must confront these problems together,” the vice president said. “We must confront them at their source within the northern triangle.”
“We’ve brought thousands of charges against gang members and money launderers. When it comes to economic prosperity, the nations in the northern triangle have formed a new customs union, which is supporting jobs and increasing trade in the region. USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, all continue to help encourage investments in your region, and we will continue to do so,” he said.
“As a part of our America Cresse Initiative, our Treasury Department is now working with Mexico’s finance ministry, and institutions like the World Bank to support economic reforms in the northern triangle, and we encourage energy development and infrastructure projects throughout the region. And last year, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador helped ensure the safe return, the safe return of nearly 75,000 of your citizens who had tried to enter the United States illegally,” Pence said.