In what is likely one of the more awkward addresses of his political career, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a group of Latinx business leaders on Thursday, praising them as a valued and valuable part of President Trump's vision of America
Pence was on hand to deliver the keynote speech during the Latino Coalition's annual policy meeting. There, he did his best to placate the concerns of a community that had been repeatedly maligned by President Trump during the 2016 campaign, and which has been on edge during the administration's ongoing anti-immigrant crackdown—an issue Pence addressed directly, telling the crowd that, "as that debate goes forward we will, as the president promised, show great heart every step of the way."
During his speech, Pence lauded the Latinx community's economic contributions to the United States, explaining to the assembled business leaders that "Hispanics are driving entrepreneurship and economic growth like never before."
Pence's comments—particularly those concerning immigration—come in stark contrast to the ongoing and alarmingly harsh actions taken by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency against undocumented immigrants, including some who have been granted permission to stay in the United States under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In addition to the administration's harsh immigration policies, and the president's past remarks calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "drug dealers," Trump's few months in office have been beset by a number of missteps that have strained trust with the Latinx community, such as removing the White House's Spanish language website, and initially failing to nominate a single Latinx person to the cabinet.
Pence himself was criticized by the Latinx community for dismissing Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric as "that Mexican thing" during the 2016 vice presidential debate against Sen. Tim Kaine.