July 29, 2019: Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo With David Rubenstein, President of the Economic Club of Washington, DC

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed a wide-range of topics with David Rubenstein, which included immigration and Mexico, the recently completed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and the possibility of US military intervention in Venezuela. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now in respect to Mexico, we have been concerned about people coming over the border.  Are you confident that the Mexican Government is now doing what it can to keep more people from not coming over the border?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They are.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So they’re doing enough, you think, or you’re —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, it’s not enough.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They still have a high side of 2,000 every day.  It’s unacceptable, and so they need to do more, we need to do more, Congress needs to change the rules.  We have to create a deterrence, right.  And it has to be the case that those who want to come here legally can and those who want to come by some other mechanism choose not to because they understand that they’re not going to find a way.  I remember this as a member of Congress.  People would call my office and say hey, we live in pick-a-country-around-the-world, and they’d say they want to come here and get citizenship, and – anyway, I won’t tell you the joke we told —

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  — but the simplest way to do it would be go to Mexico and come on.  But what you want to encourage them to do is to file their paperwork, go through the lawful process —

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  — become citizens.  We’re the most welcoming nation in the world.  We will always be.  But it’s not the case that we can be lawless or have our sovereignty broken through having this mass immigration in an unlawful mechanism.  It’s truly – there’s a national security risk very, very broadly speaking.

And so when I speak with my Mexican counterparts – I was in El Salvador last week speaking with my El Salvadorian counterpart who understands whose challenge it is.  It’s theirs, not ours.  We got to get this right.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  In Mexico and Canada, we have redone NAFTA and now USMCA, but Congress hasn’t passed it.  Are you worried that Congress might not pass that legislation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I hope they will.  I hope they will.  The President’s doing everything he can to create growth here in the United States of America, and USMCA would contribute to that substantially.  And so I hope they’ll pass it.  I’m out of the – I don’t do vote-counting anymore.  I did that for six years, and so I’m out.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Speaking of south of the border, Venezuela:  Would the U.S. ever send troops in if that was necessary to keep further violence from occurring there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  See, you started trying to get me at the beginning, now you’re trying at the end.  The President has said pretty clearly we’re going to do all that it takes to make sure the Venezuelan people get democracy back, and that’s the mission set.  We’re closer today than we were several months ago, but in the end, we’ll do our part and the nations of the region – we’ve built out a great coalition from members of the OAS to what we call the Lima Group to 56 or 58 other countries who are joining us and who understand Maduro is not the duly elected president.  Progress every day.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, President Trump has sometimes tweeted things that are not favorable about some people working for him.  He’s never tweeted anything unfavorable about you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s early.  It’s early.  (Laughter.)

Source: United States Department of State

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