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U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Nielsen, Acting Director Vitiello, and to all of the courageous Americans who every day are “protecting national security and upholding public safety,” it is my great honor — at a critical time in the life of this agency — to address the dedicated men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And I bring greetings this morning from a great champion of law and order.  And as he reminded and wanted me to convey today, a leader who stands without apology with the men and women of ICE and law enforcement at every level.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

Just this week, President Trump said that the men and women of ICE are, in his words, “incredible people,” and I know that to be true — “incredible patriots.”  The President sent me here today with a very simple message: While I stand before you today at time when some people are actually calling for the abolition of ICE, in this White House, let me be clear: We are with you 100 percent.  And as the President said last night, “We will always stand proudly with the brave heroes of ICE and our Border Patrol.”  (Applause.)  We will.

Now before I go further, let me give thanks to a few other great leaders.  First and foremost, I want to thank Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  Not just for the warm introduction, but more importantly for her strong and resolute leadership of our Department of Homeland Security.  She has stood strong for the courageous men and women of this agency; and the American people and our safety have been advanced as a result.  Would you join me in thanking the Sixth Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, for your service to the United States.  (Applause.)

Let me also take a moment to recognize a new leader of this agency, as of Monday of this week.  But a man who has spent more than 33 years enforcing and upholding our laws, defending our borders, and seeing to the law and order, and the protection of the American people.  Join me in thanking Acting Director Ronald Vitiello for a career of service and for stepping up to serve our nation at such a time as this.  (Applause.)

And finally, let me just say thank you to all of you — all of you who are here today and all of you who are watching all across this nation at the more than 400 offices of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.  You’re on the frontlines of enforcing America’s laws and ensuring our — the vitality of this nation and the security of our people.  And you have our thanks; the thanks of our President; and, I want to assure you, you have the thanks and the admiration of the American people.

It’s been true ever since this agency was founded more than 15 years ago.  Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to meet countless ICE agents and Border Patrols officers.  I was recently with the Secretary at El Centro Station, Imperial Valley, California, and I never failed to be inspired when I’m around men and women who have answered a call to uphold the laws of this nation throughout this great and storied agency.

The truth is, your courage, your determination, your dedication to the law and to the American people inspires me and inspires the people of this country.  At this agency, as the Secretary just described, more than 20,000 patriots stand every day — investigators, field officers, special agents, analysists — each and every day stand for the rule of law in this nation and stand for the interests of the American people.  You step up to enforce our system of legal immigration.

And the truth is, every day — every day, men and women of ICE also confront criminal illegal immigrants who endanger our communities and prey on our most vulnerable.  Our ICE agents are busy every day taking them off the streets.  You’ve fought vicious gangs like MS-13.  You’ve stopped human smugglers, child traffickers, and destructive drug cartels that are poisoning our youth and stealing lives of promise.  You’ve apprehended terrorists who’ve come into our country to challenge our way of life and harm our people.

The truth is, the statistics really don’t tell the tale, but they’re worth repeating.  In 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made 4,818 gang arrests, including — they took from the streets — 796 members of the MS-13 gangs.  And our communities are safer as a result.  (Applause.)

There were nearly 33,000 arrests by ICE personnel — criminal arrests, individuals who came into this country illegally and then pursued crime against our people.  Nearly a million pounds of narcotics were seized by ICE agents in 2017 alone.  And most touchingly to me, as a father, ICE agents rescued 518 human trafficking victims, and 904 children subject to child exploitation were rescued by ICE agents all across America.  We are enforcing our laws and protecting the most vulnerable.  (Applause.)

You do all this because you love your country.  You do all this because you’re called to serve.  But I want you to know, President Trump and I and the American people understand that, behind these statistics, in this work you also — you do so oftentimes without regard to your personal safety.  Men and women of ICE, like all of law enforcement, you’ve answered a call that requires you to put the lives of your countrymen ahead of your own.  And I want you and your loved ones to know that we understand this.  We appreciate and understand the risks that you face when you come into contact with violent criminals, when you enforce the law, when you remove drug dealers and gang members from our streets that threaten our families.

In recent years, tragically, attacks on you and your fellow law enforcement officers have risen dramatically.  In 2017, attacks on your fellow DHS colleagues at Customs and Border Protection increased by nearly 75 percent.  And at ICE, assaults on your officers nearly tripled in 2017.

But remarkably, but not surprisingly, these attacks have not diminished your commitment, or your courage, or your determination to enforce our laws.  I see it in your faces as I’m addressing you today, and I see it every time that I’m with ICE and Border Patrol personnel.  The challenges only steel the resolve of courageous men and women who have the character to serve.  And I want to assure you, these challenges and the challenges you face have only strengthened the resolve of this President and this administration to stand with you every step of the way.  (Applause.)

I want to assure you, as I travel across this country, that the American people know that men and women of ICE are American heroes, that you’re doing an important job.  You’re often doing a dangerous job, and you’re doing it for them.  And I want to promise you that we’re going to continue to work to make sure that this agency has both the support, the respect, and the resources that you deserve to do the job that you have been called to do.  The American people support you because they know how important your mission is.

But as we all have seen in the press lately, the heroes of ICE are being attacked and demonized for the work that you do in an unprecedented rate in recent weeks.  ICE has been targeted with protests across this country, not only on the job but in public square and social media, and for many of you, even at your homes.  The hashtag, ”#AbolishICE,” has now taken its place on the Internet.  Protestors chant, “No ban, no wall, no borders at all” at protests around the country.  ICE officers and leadership have had their personal information exposed on social media, and threats to their families have followed this.  Now let me be very clear on this point: The American people have every right to engage in peaceful protest, but these threats against ICE officers and their families must stop and they must stop now.  (Applause.)

The sad fact is, though, it isn’t just the expression of the radical left that’s been speaking out against ICE lately.  The truth is that opposition of ICE has moved to the center of the Democratic Party itself.

Just when you thought the Democrats couldn’t move farther to the left, leading members of the Democratic Party, including candidates for higher office, are actually openly advocating for the abolition of ICE, an agency that protects the American people and our communities every single day.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio have all already called for ICE’s abolition.  A leading candidate for governor of New York actually even appallingly called this agency a “terrorist organization.”  Now let me be clear on this point: The American people have a right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.  (Applause.)

The type of language that’s being used to describe the men and women of this agency and the work that you do every day is unacceptable.  But you know, it’s not just me saying it.  Despite these calls from top Democrats, even today, the liberal editorial page of the Washington Post had a lead editorial entitled; ICE is “the Wrong Target for Outrage.”  In their editorial, and I quote, the Washington Post acknowledged that the “20,000 employees,” of ICE, “manage more than deportations,” they wrote.  “Its investigative division handles cybercrime; human trafficking; narcotics; counter-proliferation involving nuclear materials [and] other military wares; child exploitation…”  They went on to say, and I quote, in the Washington Post, “Those are all vital and legitimate functions of government, as is deportation. They aren’t going to be abolished, nor should they be.”  (Applause.)

You know, the truth is that calls to abolish ICE are not just outrageous.  They’re irresponsible.  Abolishing ICE would mean more illegal immigration, people being able to come into our country.  Last year, ICE actually removed 226,000 illegal immigrants from our communities and our country.  Abolishing ICE would mean more violent crime.  Last year, ICE arrested more than 127,000 immigrants with criminal convictions who are facing charges for breaking our nation’s laws, including criminals who were responsible for 50,000 assault offenses and more than 11,000 weapons offenses, 2,000 kidnapping offenses, and 1,800 homicide offenses.

Abolishing ICE would mean more vicious gangs like MS-13.  Now, I’ve already discussed with you the extraordinary progress in the last year that we’ve made removing dangerous MS-13 gang members from our streets.  The truth is that the arrests that were made by ICE represented an 83 percent increase from the last full year over of a previous administration.  That is real progress that’s making a difference for the safety and security of our families and our communities.

Abolishing ICE also would mean more drugs in our schools and on our streets.  Last year, ICE has seized nearly 500 tons of narcotics, nearly a million pounds of heroin, fentanyl, and other deadly drugs that criminals and cartels were smuggling into our country.  Abolishing ICE also would mean more human trafficking.  And as I mentioned, last year, 518 human trafficking victims, nearly 1,000 victims of child exploitation.

Abolishing ICE also would give terrorists a new chance to exploit immigration loopholes.  That’s exactly what happened before September 11, 2001.  And because of the tireless work of ICE and the entire law enforcement community over the past 15 years, I truly do believe the men and women of this agency over the last 15 years have played a critical role in ensuring that no major terrorist attack occurred on our shores.  And you deserve to be credited.  (Applause.)

The record speaks for itself.  And it’s a record of accomplishment and security.  Every day, ICE makes America safer and more secure.  And every citizen of this nation is better off and safer because of the work that you do.  And so today, I want to make it clear to all of you and all of those looking on: Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE.  (Applause.)  And as the President said, we will never fail to applaud, and expand, and empower this agency with the resources that you deserve.

As the President said recently, “We’re not abandoning ICE.”  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Working with our Republican majorities in the Congress, I’m proud to report President Trump has already given this agency new funding to achieve your mission.  This year we increased your baseline budget to $7 billion; a 10-percent increase over 2017.  And the President’s called on the Congress to give additional resources of more than a billion dollars for 2019, including the hiring of 10,000 new ICE officers and investigators.  Our word to all the courageous men and women is: Help is on the way.  We’re going to make sure you have the resources and the support that you deserve.  (Applause.)

And just as important, in this White House, as you all know, we’re fighting to secure our borders so that illegal immigrants, gang members, and dangerous criminals can’t enter our country in the first place.

The President has already signed into law the largest investment in border security in nearly a decade, and we’ve started to build the first 100 miles of the new border wall.

We’ll continue to call on the Congress — call on the Congress to come together around immigration reforms that secure our border, build a wall, close the loopholes that too often serve as a magnet for vulnerable families or worse to come in across our border.

Just be confident of this, President Donald Trump and I will always fight for you.  We’ll always stand with you because we know that you are in the fight every day for the safety and security of the American people.  We’ll always have your back, but I’m here, as your Vice President, to assure you that the American people are with you.

As I travel across this country, I hear the admiration and appreciation that millions of Americans have for the men and women of this agency, for the sacrifices that you and your families make every day so that their families can be safe and secure.

We’re all grateful for your courage.  We’re grateful for the risk that that you’re willing to take to uphold our laws and defend our country.  We’re frankly grateful that our nation has men and women of such character and selflessness who are willing to step forward in this cause.

So men and women of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, I’m here to tell you that we stand with you and we always will.  But not only will we stand with you, giving you the resources and the respect that you deserve, but I also want to assure you that you’re in our prayers.  And I know you’re in the prayers of tens of millions of Americans who understand the risk that you take — who understand that, for many of you, when you walk out the door in the morning, it’s different — like it is for every law enforcement officer in this country.

You’ve responded to no ordinary calling.  It’s a calling where you’ve decided to consider others as more important than yourself.  And your families have supported you in this calling.  And we understand that.

And so you go with our support, but you do — you go with our prayers.  And for my part, I can’t help but reflect on the words of the Psalmist in my hope that you would be confident that “His faithfulness will be your shield and your rampart.”  That “you will not fear the terror of night or the arrow that flies by day,” that — as you make Him your refuge.  “No harm will overtake you,” ever.  That will be our prayer.

So thank you for the honor of addressing you today.  More importantly, thank you for your service.  Thank you for what you do for the American people every day to ensure the success of this nation and the security of our people.

I leave here today with renewed confidence that you’ll continue to do just that.  That despite the criticism that may be leveled by some, that I know you’ll continue to do your job with determination.  You’ll uphold the rule of law.  You’ll see to the interests of the American people.

And with your continued service and courage, with the support of the American people, with President Donald Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, I know we will make America safe again.  And we’ll have all of you to thank.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement.  And God bless the United States.  (Applause.)


12:21 P.M. EDT