Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the recent surge in immigration with the hosts of FOX and Friends. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.
QUESTION: Right now, let’s bring in the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who’s at a very important event tonight. He’ll be a keynote speaker, but the Secretary joins us first. First, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. The importance of addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars tonight – what’s going to be your emphasis, because I know there’s a weaving-in of today’s challenges along with their service?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Brian, it’s a great day. I’m down here in Orlando, Florida. I’m going to meet with veterans from all across the country. I’m going to get to meet with some great veterans from my home state of Kansas. We’re going to talk about their service, the duty that they exhibited, the service they gave to our nation, the risks that they took, to talk about the Trump administration and supporting them, defending them, making sure we keep America safe, how we’re committed to making sure the bad guys don’t win. This is fundamentally different than the previous administration; we’re going to talk about that. And we want to do honor to their service. It’ll be a great day. I’ll talk a little bit about my time a long time ago in the United States Army. I’m really looking forward to today.
QUESTION: Oh, God bless you, thank you for serving and for meeting with them. You also met with the Mexican foreign secretary. What came out of that meeting?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We had a number of things to talk about yesterday, Ainsley. Most importantly, immigration, the work that we’re doing together to secure America’s southern border, to keep America safe so that we know who’s coming in and out of our country. These are things your viewers understand is the most basic duty of every nation.
And we’ve made real progress. We signed an important historic agreement back in the beginning of June, and we’ve seen – we’ve seen real progress since then. The numbers are down significantly. There’s a long way to go. We have to make sure we maintain it. But the Mexican Government has put thousands of soldiers on their southern border. They’ve worked hard with our Department of Homeland Security, our great men and women of ICE and CBP, to assist in making sure that those who come to America come here legally and don’t come here illegally. There is lots of work to do, but I saw a real commitment from the Mexican Government and look forward to continuing to take those numbers down and securing America’s southern border.
QUESTION: Well, that sounds – that sounds promising. But when you say there’s still more work to do, in the last month of reporting I think the number of people who entered our country illegally and were apprehended is still north of 100,000 in one month. I mean, you add that up, Mr. Secretary, that’s over a million in a year. How low does a number have to go before the United States wants to talk seriously with Mexico about you’ve got to do more?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, look, my message yesterday was, in fact, just that. It was there’s been progress – I think when you see the numbers for our current month, for the month of July, you’ll see them down, but they’re still way too high. We need to get them down to where they were 20, 25 years ago. We need to take that – we need to take that and secure that southern border. Frankly, our objective is very clear. We want to make sure we know every single person that’s coming across that border.
We may not get to perfection, but there is an awful lot of work left to do. The good news is, is that this administration down in Mexico, President Obrador’s administration, has devoted real resources to it. They have demonstrated their commitment. They’ve done things that the Mexican Government has just simply refused to do for an awfully long time, and President Trump put America in a position where we’ve convinced their government that this was in their best interest and in ours. I am confident that their commitment will remain and we’ll continue to make progress.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary —
SECRETARY POMPEO: And if not, we’ll make sure we get it right.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the target number that you’re looking at? You said you’d like to get to the number that we were years ago. What’s that number?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Look, zero is the number, right? That’s the number. That’s what you always shoot for. That’s your goal. I’m America’s most senior diplomat. We always have high expectations. We’re shooting for making sure we have a grip on what’s going on our southern border. This is an important national security and American diplomatic objective, so that’s the objective. Whether we ever get there or not, it’s a long, complicated border.
But all the things we need – we need Congress to change the laws so that we don’t have to release people here into the United States. This is crazy stuff. No country does that. I travel all across the world. No country has a set of laws – and Congress needs to – that are like the ones here in the United States, and Congress needs to change them.
QUESTION: Yeah. Come with a kid and you get to stay, and next thing you know, instead of 39,000 coming in a year, you’ve got 239,000 from Guatemala alone.
You met with El Salvador’s government, and you believe they’re expressing a commitment to reduce the number of illegals coming here. But at the same, we’re hearing about ads on television in El Salvador that entice people to come to America. What tangible progress can you tell the American people from that country?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I met with their new leader. He’s been in office for seven weeks. I think yesterday was his 50th or 51st day. This is a big shift from where that government was before. It was a Chavista government. It was a government that didn’t take care of its own people, let alone have the capacity to work to reduce migration. The reason the people were leaving, because you had a completely dysfunctional government.
And so we’ve asked very clear things from President Bukele. We want him to control those who are leaving his country. He owned up yesterday in our press conference. He said look, migration is because of the things we’ve not done, the things that the government has failed to do for its own people. That’s a sea change.
QUESTION: No kidding.
SECRETARY POMPEO: And so – and by the way, he took responsibility. He said this is El Salvador’s responsibility. Now, that’s a good first step. It shows their deep political will to work alongside the United States.
To your point, Brian, words aren’t enough. It doesn’t – these commitments are important, they’re necessary, but they’re not sufficient. We need to see real, tangible progress, and I got a good commitment from them yesterday. They said that they would work with us to achieve what he views as his mutual goal. He wants his own people to stay in his own country. He gets it in ways the previous government down there didn’t, and I’m hopeful we can work together to achieve America’s goal along our southern border.
QUESTION: What did he say about the amount of money that – I know we’ve been giving them money, and then the President has said he doesn’t want to give them money anymore because they’re letting their folks leave their country and come into ours and he doesn’t want to fund it anymore. Did that come up in conversation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s remarkable. You should go look at the press conference that we held together. He said, “I didn’t ask the Secretary of State for a penny. That’s America’s money.” Indeed, I think he said it would be tacky to ask us for money. He understands whose responsibility this is. This is really different and important and I think demonstrates President Bukele and his team, and frankly, the people of El Salvador’s understanding that they want to grow and take care of their own country.
QUESTION: Right. Mr. Secretary, on Friday the Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, went down to our southern border. Our Vice President, Mike Pence, went down I think a week earlier. Now Mr. Schumer has come back and said that the Senate must pass the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children bill. The President tweeted out that he wants to meet with Mr. Schumer ASAP.
Both sides now say it’s a crisis and it’s really bad down there. But realistically, politically, is there a chance anything will get changed? Those laws you were talking about a little while ago – any chance between now and November 2020 will there be a change in the law?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Steve, I hope so. I can understand why the American people would find it way too optimistic to believe there’ll be any change, but I have often found when the American people demand things, when there is a real crisis – I think both parties can see that there is this real crisis along our southern border – we have to keep it secure.
I was in El Salvador where MS-13 is headquartered, if you will. It’s the central locus of MS-13, and we talked about the risk that that creates in their country and the enormous risk we know too well in the United States of America. We watch drug trafficking. We watch young girls being trafficked across the border. I think Democrats now have come to understand this is a real crisis, and I hope – I hope people from all across the political spectrum will join to resolve this problem.