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Former VP Mike Pence visits Arizona to outline his border agenda

Former Vice President Mike Pence called Monday for limiting legal migration only to those who this country needs and who can support themselves.

“We need to make it clear that the people that are coming into this country can support themselves, support their family,’’ he said in Phoenix during what was in many ways a campaign rally aimed at electing Republicans this fall and a GOP president two years later.

Pence also said his agenda calls for:

  • Finishing the border wall.
  • Deporting all criminal illegal immigrants and gang members.
  • Ending “chain migration’’ that allows those already here legally to bring in family members.
  • Banning “sanctuary cities’’ that keep states from cooperating with federal immigration officials.
  • Eliminating what he said is “asylum fraud’’ by reinstating the “remain in Mexico’’ policy.

Pence also said he would shut the door on any talk of creating a path to legal status for the approximately 11 million people estimated to be in this country illegally.

“All forms of amnesty, whether legislative or administrative, must be vigorously opposed,’’ he told his audience of legislators and others invited to the event held at the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“America is a nation of laws,’’ Pence said. “And we must stand on the principle of the rule of law and reject amnesty in all of its forms.’’

The nearly 35-minute speech in many ways was more of a campaign rally than policy address.

Pence repeatedly mentioned not only this year’s congressional races, urging the election of Republicans to oust the Democrats from control of the House and Senate.

He also repeatedly lashed out at President Biden and his administration. He stopped short, however, of saying that he is the person to oust Biden in the 2024 presidential election.

Earlier Monday, Pence visited the Arizona border with Mexico to talk to residents and authorities about border security concerns and what he called “an American tragedy.”

“We have a crisis at our southern border that the people of Cochise County live with every day,” Pence said to the officials and a gaggle of reporters at Cochise College in Sierra Vista. “The reality is many in our nation’s Capitol and many in our national media have simply turned a blind eye toward a widening human tragedy that is causing hardship and heartbreak on both sides of the border.”

The numbers of migrants being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has steadily increased since the summer of 2020 to record levels in March and April of this year. Across the globe, migration is at record levels as many countries deal with the effects of climate change, economic fallout after the pandemic, and rising levels of violence.

Pence started his border trip with media at Cochise College, where a number of other former Trump administration officials were present, including former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan, former Border Patrol chief Rodney Scott, and former director of ICE Thomas Douglas.

The press conference attendees also included Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller and the college campus president and board members.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey was supposed to join the former vice president, but his office announced earlier in the day that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not attend. Ducey was asymptomatic and feeling well, his spokesman said.

Pence and the group traveled from Cochise College to the border in Coronado National Forest, near Montezuma Pass, where a long stretch of border wall ends on the incline of a steep mountain.

Pence told the group of national and local reporters that the Trump administration “handed over the most secure border in American history,” because of the leadership, immigration policies and relationship the administration had with the Mexican government, “and now, we have the worst border crisis in the history of our nation,” he said.

Pence said several times that the Trump administration reduced illegal immigration by 90%, without saying where that statistic came from.

The number of apprehensions at the southern border, from the beginning of fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2020, which primarily fell during the Trump administration, was higher than during the Obama administration, and saw about 300,000 more apprehensions than either term of the Obama administration.

There were more than 1.9 million apprehensions during the Trump years. Since Biden took office, there have been nearly 3 million apprehensions at the southern border.

Pence said the increase is because the Biden administration undid policies the previous administration had in place, specifying “catch and release,” the Remain in Mexico program, declaring a national emergency on the border with Mexico, a treaty agreement with the North American triangle and building a wall on the southern border.

“Catch and release” refers to the practice of allowing a migrant who has already entered the country and has an upcoming hearing in immigration court to await their hearing in the community rather than in immigration detention.

The Remain in Mexico policy, enacted under Trump, has migrants who have been entered into the immigration system wait in Mexico for their court dates in the United States. Although the Biden administration originally ended the policy, it reinstated it after courts ruled its ending was unlawful.

While the number of migrants who enter the country has been increasing, so has the number of migrants deported. Under Title 42, a public health policy enacted because of the pandemic, the Biden administration has immediately ejected more than 1.5 million migrants.

“A nation without borders is not a nation, and soon we will again have leadership that understands that,” Pence said, referring to the upcoming midterm elections for U.S. House and Senate.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara


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For Star subscribers: The number of migrants showing up at the entire U.S. border with Mexico continues to break records, as does the number who pass through Pima County needing assistance. Arizona's May numbers were also higher than previous months, though not a record.  

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