US vice-president Mike Pence arrived in Brazil on Tuesday, and will reportedly hold a series of meetings with Brazilian president Michel Temer.
However, officials with Pence's delegation said that global migration tensions would be a dominant theme of discussions. The Trump administration has come under a barrage of criticism from South American countries after a crackdown that saw around 2,500 children being separated from their parents after being arrested at the US-Mexico border following illegal immigration.
Among them were around 50 Brazilians. Brazil's government expressed "anguish" at the separation of migrant families, a practice the White House has since rolled back.
It was under these circumstances that Pence began his tour on Tuesday. Addressing the media in Sao Paulo, Pence said he had a message "straight from (his) heart" for Central Americans, who account for many of those crossing from Mexico into the US. "Don't risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on a road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers," he said. "If you can't come legally, don't come at all."
But there lies a deep contradiction that Pence himself may have forgotten to spot. Just about three years ago, before Donald Trump had named him his running mate, Mike Pence had presidential aspirations of his own. In October 2015, following public statements made by Trump regarding closing US borders to immigrants from Middle East countries, Pence said it's unconstitutional to do so.
Pence had tweeted:
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.
— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) December 8, 2015
Clearly, things have changed since.
In fact, the double standards aren't restricted only to statements made then and those being made today. Pence also seems to have different set of rules for migrants looking to enter the US and those looking to enter other countries.
Considering the large number of Venezuelan migrants trying to enter Colombia and Brazil, Pence threw his ample weight behind those living in Nicolas Maduro's troubled regime in Caracas, announcing that the US will provide nearly $10 million more to support Venezuelan migrants, including $1.2 million that will go to Brazil.
The seemingly contradictory messages underscored the delicate dance the US is trying to perform: It wants to punish and isolate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government while mitigating the effects on the Venezuelan people. At the same time, however, it wants to stem the flow of migrants illegally crossing its own borders.
The Trump administration wants to ramp up the pressure on Maduro, who recently won a second term in an election condemned "illegitimate" by the US and other countries. "Venezuela's collapse is creating a humanitarian crisis leading to widespread deprivation, the denial of basic services and starvation. It has spurred the largest cross-border mass exodus in the history of our hemisphere," Pence said on Tuesday, just moments after saying migrants shouldn't risk their lives by trying to move to the US.
What was that about if you can't enter legally, you must not enter at all?
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