Vice President Mike Pence visited an immigration holding facility along the Texas border on Friday, saying that the United States had what he called a “moral obligation” to change their asylum laws. He fought the narrative that immigrants to the US were being mistreated and abused.
“The crisis is real”, the Vice President would say repeatedly during a discussion held at the U.S Customs and Border Protection headquarters. “The time for action is now.”
Pence made the journey with his wife Karen and several Republican members of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. The visit was marred with protests earlier in the day outside of the Ursala Central Protection Center around a mile away from the facility. Pence met many protection officials who offered their own first-hand accounts of the challenges they faced with the endless stream of illegal border crossings.
Agents regularly run into immigrants dealing with exhaustion, some of which were near death, and some of which who had already passed, according to Rudolfo Karisch, chief patrol agent for the Rio Grande sector.
“We need to correct a lot of misinformation that’s being put out” Karish told Pence, referring to the reports that migrants were mistreated and denied access to basic necessities such as showers and toothbrushes. He added that the agents make an average of 32 hospital visits per day for the migrants.
Pence took some pot shots at congressional Democrats during the visit, saying that they had consistently denied there was even a crisis down at the border despite Trump’s administration focusing on immigration since taking power in January 2017.
"The American people are accustomed to hearing harsh rhetoric in Washington, D.C., to see politicians play fast and loose with the facts," he said. "The good news is there's (now) a consensus in Washington, D.C., that a crisis exists."
Fighting against the narrative that migrants, particularly children, were being mistreated in federal custody, Pence was visiting the recently opened immigration holding center in Donna, which houses and processes around 1,000 migrant families and children at a time.
The visit comes as immigration arrests across the country appear to be on the decline. Recent figures from the Customs and Border Protection suggest that arrests at the border dropped 29% in June. This did come after over 140,000 arrests the prior month, which was the highest total since 2006.
The Donna immigrant facility, an air-conditioned tent complex, was opened in early May before being expanded in June. It is a processing center and it is one of the detention centers commonly accused of being overcrowded and offering migrants substandard care.