Artesia, New Mexico
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming out. I’m pleased to be joined today by the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt. Great to be in New Mexico, and the opportunity to come here.
The Permian Basin is really the heart and soul of an American energy renaissance. I was in West Texas not long ago; I witnessed it firsthand. But to be here in New Mexico to see the incredible growth that’s happening because of the policies that President Trump and our administration have been advancing — unleashing American energy — is incredible exciting.
But as I said today, we believe there’s an opportunity to build on that, and I wanted to come to New Mexico to call the people of this great state to support our efforts to see the USMCA passed by the Congress of the United States. I think the USMCA not only will be the largest trade deal in American history, but we believe it will grow American jobs — we think more than 180,000 jobs, by most estimates.
But with regard to energy, we believe that creating certainty and clarity in the rules — that all oil exports to Mexico can go tariff-free to make sure that it protects the ability of American companies to develop energy resources in Mexico — is only going to strengthen this region and strengthen the momentum in this region.
So we’re here not only to call on the public, but to call on your senators and to Congresswoman Torres Small to join us in calling on Speaker Pelosi to bring the USMCA to the floor. We really believe that momentum is growing on both sides of the aisle. If the USMCA comes to the floor of the Congress, it’ll pass.
But people in Congress need to hear from their leaders and their elected representatives in New Mexico and Washington, D.C. And I was here to call on folks to call on their elected representatives so we can move the USMCA forward.
Q Mr. Vice President, you’ve been here recently, in New Mexico, a few times. Do you consider this a battleground state for 2020?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, we really do believe — I mean, we ran a very competitive race in 2016, and the President and I are absolutely committed to carry our message — of a growing American economy, a stronger American military, over 140 conservatives confirmed to our federal courts at every level, this American energy renaissance that’s underway — to the four corners of this nation.
But you’ll see more of us here in New Mexico, and we’re going to be working every day to earn the support. It was a competitive race in 2016, and the President and I truly do believe that New Mexico is in play. And we’ll be back to earn the support of the people of this great state.
Q In light of the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, let’s talk a little bit about gun control. It recently came out, today, some stuff the President may have said to the NRA president about not supporting universal background checks. I don’t know if you’re aware of that, and any comment on that — where the administration stands?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first, our hearts break for the families in El Paso and Dayton who suffered such grievous loss in the mass shootings that took place. And every day since then, our administration has been engaging members of both political parties in the Congress to see what more could be done to prevent these kind of mass shootings that have been impacting communities since Columbine, 20 years ago.
I mean, this has really been going on for a long time. And the President has called our team together, as recently as yesterday, to begin to say, “What are some of the solutions that we can enact into law that will make a real difference and advance the safety and security of the American people?”
We’re going to stand for the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. It’s protected in the Constitution of the United States, and the President and I proudly stand for the Second Amendment.
But making sure that people that are mentally deranged or have a propensity or a history of violence can’t have access to firearms is an idea that we want to see advanced. And we’re exploring legislation that will, frankly, give law enforcement and families more tools to see to it that individuals who have a propensity to violence or have a history of mental illness can’t have access to firearms.
We think there has to be a greater emphasis on mental health. It was decades ago that we walked away, largely, in this country, from institutional mental health care. And the President believes it’s time that we revisit the whole issue of mental health in this country.
And finally, I will tell you that we believe vigorous law enforcement is an essential element to confronting this scourge of mass shootings in our country, and the President and I commend the efforts of law enforcement officers in communities around the country who, in recent days, have apprehended individuals who made threats against schools, against communities. Literally, in dozens of communities around the country, law enforcement is making renewed efforts to identify people who are making threats, either publicly or on social media, against citizens or against schools.
And vigorous law enforcement and vigorous prosecution of people who make threats against individuals or engage in violence, we believe, is all part of it. But there’s no one solution here. But we’re going to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans ensured in the Second Amendment of our Bill of Rights.
But we believe there’s a broad range of areas where we could achieve bipartisan consensus that make sure that people with mental illness and people who have a propensity to violence don’t have access to firearms, and make a real step toward making our communities safer.
Q Mr. Vice President, you know this is the first mass shooting targeting Latinos, specifically Mexicans.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s terrible.
Q Some people, you know, in the El Paso community have said, to put a stop to these shootings, maybe violence — maybe would be a to put a stop on discrimination against the Latino race. How do you respond to this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As I said, our hearts break for the families grieving loss and the whole community in El Paso. The President and I believe that the motivation of these mass shooters — whether the motivation of the person in Dayton, the motivation of the person in El Paso — is it comes out of a deranged mind. And we ought not to draw broad conclusions about our country or about the public debate in this country from what deranged individuals do.
What we need to do is identify people who are struggling with severe mental illness, identify people who have a propensity for violence, and make sure that they either get help or that we make sure that they never have access to firearms and weapons that could do violence to others. Focusing on that, ensuring that, we believe, will make a lion’s step toward making our communities safer.
Q Yes, I wanted to ask about the new rule allowing indefinite detention of migrants, and is there any effort underway to improve the conditions in the facilities.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, today, our administration published a rule that we believe will change a dynamic that human traffickers take advantage of when they entice vulnerable families to make the long and dangerous journey north to our southern border and cross illegally here into New Mexico or Arizona or Texas.
The rule today will enshrine and effect the highest standards of humanitarian care for vulnerable families and children. But it will also say that we can keep families together while they’re being given due process, while their asylum claim is being adjudicated. And if they have a legitimate asylum claim, then they’ll be granted asylum in that judicial process. And if they don’t, rather than being released after 20 days — that the Flores Settlement requires the United States to do today — we’ll be able to process those families. And if they don’t have a legitimate claim to come into this country, then we will return them to their home countries.
We believe this takes a real tool away from human traffickers who talk about the catch-and-release practice of the United States and they tell vulnerable families in Central America if you will simply bring children with you that the United States and Customs and Border Protection can only detain you for 20 days. And up until today, that was the rule. But we’ve changed that.
That, in addition to building the wall; that, in addition to the President’s strong stand with Mexico, we’re now — in the last two months, we’ve seen a 40 percent reduction in apprehensions at our southern border. The courageous efforts of our Customs and Border Protection and this rule change, we believe, are moving us in the direction of ending this crisis of illegal immigration that’s overwhelmingly involving vulnerable families from Central America.
But it’s absolutely essential that Congress act. This rule change today is a beginning, but ultimately we need Congress to change the laws permanently and make sure our Customs and Border Protection have the resources and the legal framework that people will no longer be able to be enticed into taking the long and dangerous journey north.
We’re absolutely committed to ending this crisis of illegal immigration on our southern border. People are being hurt on both sides of the border; you see that from New Mexico every day. And we believe the rule change today, with highest humanitarian standards for vulnerable families and the ability to keep families together while they are processed and their asylum claims are processed, we believe, will contribute greatly to reducing the ability of human traffickers to entice people to come here.
Q Mr. Vice President, two more questions. Back to the USMCA: Just what does the USMCA do to put the American worker first? And if so, why isn’t Nancy Pelosi acting on that in Congress?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is the largest trade deal in American history. But it’s arguably also the best trade deal in American history. The Secretary of Commerce and the entire team has worked on this agreement.
And, look, I come from the Midwest. After NAFTA was passed, we literally saw hundreds of factories in my home state close. We lost 70,000 factories since the mid-1990s, when NAFTA became law in this country, because there were incentives in NAFTA for people to move jobs south of the border. And with the USMCA, we’ve removed all of that by essentially requiring that a large percentage of automotive components are manufactured at a wage that’s essentially the average American wage. We take the incentive out for companies to move jobs south of the border.
In fact, if you saw the headline today, there was a major auto manufacturer that announced today that they were cancelling plans to move 400 jobs south of the border, and they’re going to be creating those jobs and opening a factory in Michigan.
That’s a reflection of what USMCA will mean to the American economy, and it’s the reason I’m here to say to Congresswoman Torres Small, to say to both of your senators that the USMCA is a win for New Mexico and it’s a win for America. And it’s absolutely essential that the Congress take up the measure this fall and pass it into law. And we’re going to continue to fight for that because it truly is a win for jobs.
Q (Inaudible) Democrats won every state office and congressional seat in this latest election. How do you guys plan on winning over the state next year?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re going to outwork them.
Q More visits to New Mexico?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I campaigned in New Mexico during the last campaign, and I’ll tell you what: The President has made a tremendous connection with the people of this state — whether it’s dealing with the crisis of illegal immigration, whether it’s supporting an American energy renaissance, whether it’s advancing policies that have a booming American economy. Six million new jobs.
We really believe that’s a great story to tell in New Mexico, and we’re going to be here to tell it, and we’re going to fight for every vote in this great state.