Baltimore, Maryland - Remarks by Vice President Pence to DHS and CBP Personnel:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Deputy Commissioner Perez. Thank you for your leadership and thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your service to the nation. Will you all join me in thanking the Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection for the United States of America, Mr. Robert Perez? (Applause.) Thank you for all you do.
To Director Rottman, Director Durst, to my friend Congressman Andy Harris, to all of you serving here at the Port of Baltimore in Customs and Border Protection: It is a great, great honor to be here with all of you today to say a very simple thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for all you do every day to ensure the flow of commerce and ensure the safety and security of the American people. Let’s give CBP a round of applause here at the Port of Baltimore. (Applause.)
It is remarkable to think about how long the Port of Baltimore has played a role in the life of this nation since even before this nation was founded. And it continues to play a vital role in the commerce of our nation today. And all of you involved in Customs and Border Protection here at the Port of Baltimore play a vital role in ensuring that that commerce happens — happens in a way that protects the interests and the wellbeing of the American people.
And before I get started, let me bring greetings — for all the good words that the Deputy Commissioner said about me — let me bring greetings from a friend of mine, a great admirer of Customs and Border Protection, and a man who is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of the American people and protecting the homeland and standing with all who protect it. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
The work you do here every day saves lives. But we also recognize that you’re on the frontlines. And the risk that you take in enforcing our laws sometimes comes with the ultimate price. And let me say, with the Deputy Commissioner here, we today join our hearts and our prayers with the family of Border Patrol Agent Donna Doss.
She’ll be laid to rest this afternoon in Taylor County, Texas. The tragic accident that claimed her life on duty is a reminder that all of you who serve, all of you who wear the uniform of Customs and Border Protection, do so in no small way that reflects that you’ve put our lives ahead of your own. And so we remember her and we remember her family today.
As I said, I’m here to say thank you. But I’m also here to learn more about the work that each and every one of you do. The briefing that I just received from the senior leadership here was very impressive and a reminder of how you bring state-of-the-art technology and time-honored tried and true methods to ensure that the commerce that flows here flows here legally and flows here in a way that doesn’t threaten the wellbeing of the American people.
President Trump laid out a vision this last Tuesday before the Congress of the United States and the American people. He laid out a vision that we might choose American greatness. And let me say, each one of you have already made that choice. And I’m here to recognize that the state of our union is strong, the state of our union is safe because of the work of Customs and Border Protection. And you have our thanks. (Applause.)
You know, the President and I — and, frankly, all of the American people — couldn’t be more grateful for the work that you do every day. And you don’t hear that thanks often enough, I expect.
The character of all of you who wear the uniform came into high relief, particularly over the last month, when the President took such a strong stand for border security and we saw a government shut down for 35 days. We’re grateful to all the federal employees and their families who continued to work during this difficult time.
But standing before all of you, let me say, we’re particularly grateful today to the men and women of CBP, DHS. You all stood tall, you stayed on your watch in the midst of that shutdown, you stayed on mission. And I want to say thank you to you and your families for standing your post and never letting down during those days. (Applause.)
And as the Congress continues to negotiate, even at this very hour, it’s about funding our Department of Homeland Security, this very agency, and your efforts. I want to promise you: The President and I are going to continue to work tirelessly to get you the resources and the support that you need to accomplish that mission for the sake of all of the American people.
The men and women of DHS know firsthand how vitally important this mission is, and particularly those of you who work every day in Customs and Border Protection. You see firsthand the transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America. The drug cartels that fuel their deadly trades represent unquestionably one of the greatest national security and public health threats in the United States of America.
Last year, Customs and Border Protections seized more than 827,000 pounds of illegal drugs entering our country just at our southern border alone.
Mexican and Central American drug cartels are the main wholesale providers of drugs to street gangs and dealers. And their deadly trade brings suffering to millions of American families.
As the President said this past Tuesday, as you know full well, tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by illegal drugs that cross into our border, flood into our cities. Three hundred Americans die every week from heroin, 90 percent of which comes across our southern border. But all told — all told, in the efforts reflected here — nevertheless, nearly 200 people in America lose their lives to drug overdose every single day.
The mission that you perform here and the President’s determination to secure our southern border has an enormous impact on the wellbeing of the American people, the safety and security of our communities and our families.
And I have to tell you, seeing the work that you do here, and seeing the cutting-edge technology that you utilize, gives me great confidence that, as we continue to support your work, we will continue to confront the flow of illegal drugs into America as never before.
Cutting-edge technologies that I just was briefed on that detect and seize contraband brought into the country. It’s remarkable to think of that non-intrusive inspective technology I just looked over; large-scale X-ray and gamma ray imaging, allowing you to look into shipping containers and commercial trucks.
And I have to tell you, I just mentioned to the director, I was so impressed that your training is so precise that you’ll look at the manifest, and if the X-ray scan doesn’t actually look like the vehicle that’s described on the manifest, you’ll begin the inspection. Now, that’s an attention to detail that would inspire any American.
Portable and handheld devices that allow you to make sure that smaller contraband in cars and on individuals is caught as well. These technologies, we know, are force multipliers. And last year, they helped you stop nearly a quarter of a million pounds of narcotics from entering the country, as well as a million dollars in foreign currency. That is a record of success the Port of Baltimore CBP should be proud of, and so are we.
Now, we also are impressed that — by the time-honored tradition — just diligence, carefulness. And I also witnessed the highly trained canine teams that are utilized here. I even got a playing card from Zombie. And I have to tell you, seeing the way that these canines are capable of detecting even the faintest signs of deadly drugs, radioactive materials, and stowaways is impressive indeed.
And Customs and Border Protection has been in the forefront of canine training and detection from the very beginning. In fact, CBP just announced the largest fentanyl bust in history at the Nogales port of entry in Arizona. Thanks to CBP’s canine team, we’ve prevented more than 250 pounds of fentanyl from entering our country and flooding our streets. That would be enough fentanyl to kill nearly one third of the population of the United States.
I think that’s worth a round of applause for Customs and Border Protection. (Applause.)
You know, the Old Book says, if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. And I hope, if you hear nothing more from me today, you hear us — you’re here to pay a debt of honor and a debt of respect to all of you who put in the long hours and do the tireless work that is saving lives.
Whether it makes the front page of the newspaper or not, I want you to know, from the President on down, we know that your work here is vital to the safety and security of the American people, even as you facilitate the flow of commerce in our growing economy. And we’re truly grateful.
The truth though is, today, your jobs are as difficult and dangerous as ever with the security and humanitarian crisis that we face at our southern border. Every day that our southern border remains unsecured, it gives the very criminal syndicates and drug traffickers that you confront literally in the form of contraband and illegal drugs every day here in the Port of Baltimore — it gives them more resources and more ability to peddle their poison and destroy American lives and families.
Now, I want to assure you — I want to assure you that you have the support of this President and our entire administration, and of the American people, as you go about your task. And I want you to make you a promise. I want to make you a promise that we’re going to continue — we’re going to continue to work to secure our border — north, south, east, and west.
When it comes to our southern border, as the negotiations continue, we will not rest, we will not relent until our Customs and Border Protection have the technology, the personnel, and the barriers required to secure our border. We’re going to build that wall, one way or another. I promise you. (Applause.)
So thank you for the work you do here today. Thank you for taking time away from your busy workday to give me such a warm welcome. I look forward to being able to meet as many of you as time permits.
But I really came here to learn more but also to say thanks and assure you of our ongoing support. And I’ll assure you of one other thing: You know, each and every day, you put on that uniform — we know it’s no ordinary job. You come here at the Port of Baltimore, and the nation is safer because of your diligence and your commitment.
And so I want you to know that you have the gratitude and, I’m confident, the prayers of the American people as you stand in the gap for the safety and security of our people and our families and our communities.
And on behalf of our President and on behalf of a grateful nation, I want to say to all of you who work so diligently every day here at the Port of Baltimore: Keep up the good work. Stay focused on your task at hand. Know that the American people are with you, and we’re going to continue to fight to give you the resources you need to accomplish that mission. And we will confront illegal drugs and all of its consequences as never before.
And with your help, and with God’s help, we will make great progress in this nation. We will save lives. And America will be safer than ever before.
Thank you very much. God bless you and your work. And God bless the United States of America.