“Under the Trump-Pence administration, our neighbors to the south knew we expected them to do their part to secure their border and ours,” former Vice President Mike Pence tells the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix. (Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Former vice president Mike Pence called last week for limiting legal migration only to those who this country needs and who can support themselves.

“We need to make it clear that the people that are coming into this country can support themselves, support their family,’’ he said during what was in many ways a campaign rally for electing Republicans this fall and a GOP president two years later. And he wants a “merit-based immigration system that puts the interests of America first.’’

Pence, in his first policy speech on immigration since the 2020 election, also said his “freedom agenda’’ calls for:

  • Finishing the border wall;
  • Deporting all criminal illegal immigrants and gang members;
  • Ending “chain migration’’ which allows those already here legally to bring in extended family members;
  • Banning “sanctuary cities’’ that keep states from cooperating with federal immigration officials;
  • Eliminating what he said is “asylum fraud’’ by reinstating the “remain in Mexico’’ policy that previously existed and which President Biden scrapped but has been temporarily reinstated while the legality of his action is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And Pence said he would shut the door on any talk of creating a path to legal status for the approximately 11 million people in this country illegally.

“All forms of amnesty, whether legislative or administrative, must be vigorously opposed,’’ he told his audience of legislators and others invited to the event held at the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“America is a nation of laws,’’ Pence said. “And we must stand on the principle of the rule of law and reject amnesty in all of its forms.’’

The nearly 35-minute speech in many ways was more of a campaign rally than policy address.

Pence repeatedly mentioned this year’s congressional races, using the issue of border security to push for the election of Republicans to oust the Democrats from control of the House and Senate. He said he tells people who ask about how to fix the border that “about six months you’re going to begin to have an opportunity to do something about it.’’

And the former vice president repeatedly lashed out at President Biden and his administration, taking aim at his being ousted from the White House in 2024.

“Some day soon we will have leadership that secures our border and fixes this broken immigration system once and for all,’’ Pence said, saying there’s a “new generation’’ of leaders coming. “In six months -- and in just a few years -- it’ll put our nation back on the path of secure borders and law and order.’’

He stopped short, however, of saying that he is the person to do that.

“Until President Biden and the Democrats in Congress recognize the true nature of the border crisis and its roots in far-Left policies of open borders, it’s only going to get worse,’’ he said. “And, sometimes, as the old saying goes, if they don’t see the light, make them feel the heat.’’

The political nature of Monday’s speech was underlined by having three introductory speeches delivered by former immigration officials who praised the Trump-Pence administration even as they lashed out at Biden for reversing its policies. Pence wasted no time in echoing their thoughts.

“If it seems like the president holds nothing but contempt and disdain for border law enforcement officials, it’s because he does,’’ he said.

“His administration views ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Border patrol as vestigial appendages of government, remnants of the past that no longer have a purpose,’’ Pence said, seeing those agencies as “an impediment to the Left’s goal of open borders.’’

The speech followed a meeting that Pence had with some local officials and residents in Cochise County as well as a tour of a partially completed section of the fence. And the former vice president made it clear he wants to raise the visibility of border security ahead of the upcoming election.

“There is an issue about which official Washington and the national media is spending little time,’’ he said. 

“But it’s an issue that impacts people all across this state and all across the country,’’ Pence continued. “And we are here to say with one voice to President Joe Biden and the Democrat Congress it is time to secure the southern border of the United States of America.’’

But Pence said his plan involves more than restoring law enforcement at the border. That includes finishing the wall that President Trump started and his successor halted.

Pence also wants to begin “immediately deporting all illegal alien criminals and gang members.’’ But an aide said after the speech that does not include all 11 million migrants who, by virtue of entering the country illegally, broke the law.

Then there’s the issue of what Pence said is “asylum fraud which allows millions to enter and remain in the United States,’’ people making claims they are eligible to remain in this country who may not have a credible case.

“The fastest way to end asylum fraud is to demand that this Congress and this administration and Mexico reinstate the ‘remain in Mexico City’ policy,’’ he said, though the policy never referred specifically to Mexico City. He said it spelled out that anyone who wants to seek asylum in the United States would have his or her claim considered “carefully and thoughtfully -- and you can wait just outside the door while we do that.’’

“It’s amazing how many people just chose not to come and apply,’’ Pence said.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who has become a Pence political ally, was supposed to take the trip to the border but did not after coming down with COVID.

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