Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday acknowledged that “of course” toothbrushes, blankets and medicine are necessary basics for children – despite the Trump administration’s legal argument earlier this week that detained migrant children didn’t need those items in order to be held in “safe and sanitary conditions.”
Pence responded to footage of a Department of Justice attorney arguing that “there’s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary,” before a judge states, “Not may be, are a part.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Pence during “State of the Union” on Sunday, “Aren’t toothbrushes and blankets and medicine, basic conditions for kids, aren’t they a part of how the United States of America, the Trump administration treats children?”
Pence replied, “Well, of course they are,” and later added, “I can’t speak to what that lawyer was saying.”
The vice president’s comments follow CNN reporting of a group of doctors, advocates and lawyers warning of what they say are major health and hygiene problems at several US Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas.
Pence seemed to indicate that such conditions were “one of the reasons we asked for more bed space” when negotiating during the federal shutdown, and blamed Democrats.
“Democrats in Congress refused to expand the bed space and the capacity for us to detain people at our borders,” he said. “It is one of the reasons why we continue to call on Congress to give (the Department of Homeland Security), Customs and Border Protection additional resources at the border.”
Tapper argued that funds currently exist to provide all children at the El Paso facility in question with the necessary hygiene products and blankets, and Pence agreed that “of course we do.”
“My point is, it’s all a part of the appropriations process,” Pence added, punting to Congress “to provide additional support to deal with the crisis at our southern border” and close loopholes exploited by human traffickers.
Pence also responded to accounts in The New Yorker made by lawyers who visited a border facility and described sick, dirty and unattended children sleeping on cold floors.
Tapper said, “You’re a father, you’re a man of faith – you can’t approve of that.”
Pence replied, “No American should approve of this mass influx of people coming across our border. It is overwhelming our system at the southern border.”
When pressed on the treatment of the children, Pence acknowledged the “heartbreaking scene” he witnessed during his visit to a border facility in Arizona in April, and again slammed human traffickers.
CNN’s Nick Valencia and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.