Mike Pence visits Harpers Ferry, thanks border agents

PENCE VISITS TRAINING FACILITY — U.S. Customs and Border Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, left, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence listen to U.S. Border Patrol agents prior to a border wall scenario demonstration at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility Wednesday morning in Harpers Ferry. -- Ron Agnir

HARPERS FERRY — Vice President of the United States Mike Pence was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry on Wednesday to tour the facility and to urge members of Congress to “stand up for border security.”

At the end of his tour, Pence, Nielsen and McAleenan addressed an assembled crowd of CBP agents-in-training and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.

“The work (CBP is doing) is more important and frankly more challenging than ever,” Pence said. “As all of you know, our nation today faces an undeniable security and humanitarian crisis (on our southern border).”

Pence said illegal immigration, drug smugglers, dangerous criminals, human traffickers and violent gang members are just some of the issues that CBP deals with on a daily basis. However, Pence said the southern border is struggling with a humanitarian crisis, as well.

“For the first time ever, a majority of those attempting to come into our country illegally are families and unaccompanied minors,” Pence said. “They’re being enticed by drug cartel and human traffickers to make a long and dangerous journey north to our southern border.”

According to Pence, approximately 70 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended at the southern border report being victims of violence along their journey. Pence also cited a Doctors Without Borders report that claims nearly one-third of all women from Central America are sexually assaulted during the journey to the U.S. Border.

Pence said criminals are exploiting this vulnerable population to draw CBP’s attention away from the movement of drugs along other parts of the border.

According to Pence, the CBP has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of families apprehended since last year, and agents apprehend approximately 268,000 illegal immigrants at the southern border since the beginning of fiscal year, which he said is a 100 percent increase from last year.

“Every day we don’t secure our border we’re allowing the crisis to worsen and lives to be endangered,” Pence said. “Despite the extraordinary work (of CBP), drug cartels and smugglers are exploiting this crisis to flood drugs into our country, tearing apart families and claiming American lives”

Pence claimed that drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for adults under 55 years of age, and in 2017, he said that 192 American people lost their lives every day to an overdose.

“As (President) Trump has said in his words, ‘these are the heartbreaking realities that are hurting innocent, precious human beings every day on both sides of our border,’ and that’s why this president has taken decisive steps to act, to end this crisis on the southern border of the United States of America,” Pence said.

The “decisive action” references U.S. President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to secure funding for southern border security. Pence criticized members of the U.S. Congress who are poised to stop the president’s executive emergency declaration.

“A vote against the president’s emergency declaration is a vote against border security. A vote against the president’s emergency declaration is a vote to deny the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Pence said. “Before all of you today, we call on every member of the U.S. Senate, stand up for border security — stand with President Trump and put safety and security of Americans first.”