Vice President Mike Pence is visiting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) headquarters in Washington, D.C., amid awhich has left CBP officers and other federal workers on furlough or working without pay. Pence is visiting CBP with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
The Trump administration is currently locked in a stalemate with congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall. President Trump is refusing to sign any government funding bill without money for the wall, while Democrats are unwilling to provide the funding or even negotiate over it while the government is closed.
Pence spoke with employees and make remarks after meeting with CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and CBP Chief Carla Provost. Nielsen introduced Pence, praising him and Mr. Trump for their stances on the border wall, saying they had demonstrated "decisive action, leadership and vision."
In his remarks, Pence praised the workers of CBP for guarding the border, and their "commitment to law and order."
"We are with you, we are going to continue to stand with you, until you have the resources and the reforms to do your job," Pence said. He primarily repeated Trump administration talking points about illegal immigration and the need to build a border wall.
"We have a humanitarian crisis on our southern border and it demands action by Congress," Pence said, appealing to CBP officers for their work on the border, even as they are among the federal employees not being paid during the shutdown. "Each one of you is at the front lines of standing in the gap and enforcing our laws."
Pence also praised Congress for approving legislation which will provide federal employees with back pay when the government reopens.
Pence's and Nielsen's visit comes the day after Mr. Trump. In McAllen, Texas, Mr. Trump visited a border patrol station where he was briefed by agents on the situation at the border. While border patrol agents there expressed support for a border wall or barrier, the border patrol agent in charge showed an image of a tunnel illegal immigrants had carved — under a wall.
Mr. Trump also indicated Thursday he will likely declare aif Congress doesn't reach an agreement to fund his border wall — a move that is sure to set off challenges in the courts if he goes ahead with it.
"If this doesn't work out, I probably will do it, I would almost say definitely," Mr. Trump told reporters, adding later, "If we don't make a deal, I would say 100 percent but I don't want to say 100 percent."
If Congress doesn't make a deal, Mr. Trump said "it would be very surprising" if he didn't declare such a national emergency. Declaring a national emergency, the president explained, frees up a "tremendous" amount of funds.