Michael Pence, whitehouse.gov, October 11, 2018v
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Secretary, thank you for your hospitality this morning and for the outstanding leadership that you have brought to your role as Secretary of State for the United States of America.
To President Hernandez, to President Morales, Vice President Ortiz, Mr. Secretary, to Secretary Nielsen, and to our co-hosts from Mexico, Foreign Secretary Videgaray and Interior Secretary Navarrete: It is an honor. It is an honor for me to join you for the second year in a row at this annual Conference on Security and Prosperity in Central America. Welcome back to Washington, D.C. We are grateful for your participation and your partnership in this effort over the past year.
Over the last year alone, 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. 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.
But to stem the flow of illegal immigration and drugs — as I said a year ago on behalf of the President and our administration, and as we’ve discussed when I gathered with many of you in the region last year — that we must confront these problems together. And we must confront them at their source within the Northern Triangle.
Since this congress first convened a year ago, I’m pleased to report that we have made measurable progress thanks to your leadership and your actions in strengthening security, promoting prosperity, and stemming the flow of illegal immigration across the region. But the challenges remain.
Our security — our nations have conducted joint law-enforcement actions across the region. We lowered homicide rates in the Northern Triangle. We brought thousands of charges against gang members and money launderers.
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.
Last June, when I traveled to Guatemala with Secretary Nielsen, we called on countries in the Northern Triangle to take several concrete steps to help stem the migration crisis that’s affecting our country and yours. And while some good progress is made, as I mentioned, we gather today because much work remains.
But let me acknowledge the progress. President Hernandez, thank you for reappointing 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 also has committed to double the number of your frontier police by 2020, from 400 to 800. And we are grateful for these actions and grateful for your leadership.
President 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, Vice President 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 ring leaders just in the past year.
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.
But as I said, for all we’ve done before, we gather here today because there is more work to be done. President Hernandez, we encourage you, with great respect, to continue to redouble your efforts to increase the number of border police combatting human trafficking. And we encourage you — we encourage you, with great respect, to make investments in border security as well.
President Morales, with equal respect, we encourage you to devote even more resources to securing your border. Take full advantage of the border-security task forces the United States has already established. We are anxious to work with you to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of your country and ours.
And, Vice President Ortiz, we encourage you to expand the Salvador Seguro program to keep reducing crime in your country, strengthen your anti-extortion task forces and your vetted law-enforcement units so they can work with us to defeat the gangs — the gangs that are preying on your people and, when they make their way north of the border, preying on ours.
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. And 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.
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 and as friends because it’s the truth.
Ultimately, we do recognize though that prosperity in your nations will contribute greatly to allaying the migration crisis that we face. Your people will stay home if they believe there’s a brighter future for them there. As the old saying goes, “There’s no place like home.”
And so we’ll continue to stand with you to fight against corruption in your nations, to strengthen the rule of law, but also to spur job creation and economic growth in your nations.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce that, at the President’s directon, I will lead the U.S. delegation to Mexico on December the 1st to attend the inauguration of Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. And it will be my great honor to represent the United States, along with the Secretary of State at that momentous occasion.
President Trump has had good discussions already with President-elect Obrador, and we are confident that under this leadership, and under the leadership of President Donald Trump, that the United States and Mexico will continue to work closely to advance our shared security and prosperity in the interests of our hemisphere.