As per usual, Mike Pence is full of it. On Friday, Pence visited detention facilities, which have been kindly characterized by some as “hell,” and determined that the conditions there are unacceptable. In an interview with CNN, Pence said that this was “the reason why we demanded that Congress provide $4.6 billion in additional support to Customs and Border Protection.” He went further, saying in reference to the vast disparities between the facilities he visited, “What you saw today was a very clean facility where people were being detained indoors, and then you saw a temporary facility that was constructed because this facility is overcrowded. And we can’t keep people in a cell beyond what the rules and regulations allow for, but everyone in that temporary facility is getting health care, … Customs and Border Protection is doing their level best … but Congress has got to act.”
Two things: pinning this on Congress was predictable, and Congress funding Customs and Border Protection won’t fix Trump’s thoroughly inhumane policy of treating vulnerable children and adults like vermin. Pence might have said he thought these conditions unacceptable, but if he really wanted to take a stand, he’d go to his boss and tell him off. He’d side with congressional Democrats and demand a substantive change in policy. But no. The White House wheeled out Pence to do some damage control as a proxy for Trump’s inability to anything but damage. Imagine Trump visiting these facilities; that’s why they sent Pence.
It should also be noted that one of the facilities Pence visited, the Donna Processing facility, was a few orders of magnitude less egregious than the facilities that have been making news as hell on earth. It’s not hard to imagine that Pence’s itinerary for this trip to the border included the Donna facility to show that it’s not a complete blunder at the border. The White House knew that it would have some effect in shifting optics into less unfavorable territory for at least some of the population. Pence’s argument was simple: look at how inoffensive these facilities, and by extension our shitbrained policy, can be if we just have enough funding!
The problem for the White House is that I think this had the opposite effect. It put on display the horrible mismanagement of the manufactured border crisis and the extent to which the Trump administration doesn’t know what it’s doing. Pence’s visit was at best tactless, and at worst counterproductive for the White House’s own agenda. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but it’s about time for someone to step up and right this abominable wrong.