ATLANTA (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence's visit Thursday to Atlanta included a stop at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's field office and a conversation about the "broader mission of border security."
He also blasted Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her decision last year to bar the city jail from holding federal immigration detainees and thanked the men and women who work for ICE.
Pence highlighted some of the ICE arrests made in the area, including one Wednesday night in Riverdale, Georgia, news outlets reported.
"Atlanta and Georgia are safer today because of the outstanding work of the men and women of ICE in Georgia," Pence said.
The visit also comes amid President Donald Trump's declaring a "national emergency" at the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to get more than $8 billion for a border wall — a move Congress tried to block last week. Trump has vetoed Congress' move.
After Bottoms terminated the city's relationship with ICE, the federal agency entered into an agreement with a private facility in Clayton County to house detainees. There are three other detention centers in Georgia, hours away from Atlanta, in Lumpkin, Ocilla and Folkston.
"It is amazing to think the mayor actually said — in her words — she would not be complicit in an immigration policy that intentionally inflicts misery," said Pence, flanked by Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
"I would say to the mayor that criminal illegal immigrants — gang members on our streets — are what inflict misery. The flow of illegal drugs like cocaine and meth and fentanyl inflict misery and wreck our families and communities. Human trafficking inflicts misery."
The mayor has said her move was prompted by the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy on the southwest border, which led to the separation of many immigrant families last year.
"If there are politicians whose family values include ripping children from their parents' arms," she said in a statement Thursday, "I fundamentally disagree and believe my decision to end that agreement fully reflects my values."
Pence took aim at Bottoms on his way to a campaign fundraiser for Perdue, who is up for re-election next year. Among Perdue's possible Democratic challengers is Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader who narrowly lost the race for governor against Kemp last year. After Bottoms signed her executive order last year, a spokeswoman for Abrams commended the mayor's "efforts to combat the impact of the administration's cruel and inhumane family separation policy. Anyone who stands against keeping families together lacks any kind of moral compass."
Pence also sought to link what is happening on the southwest border, including the flow of illegal drugs and human trafficking, to Atlanta.
"I don't have to tell any of the ICE agents gathered here that we have a crisis on our southern border," he said. "That crisis on our southern border is driving drugs and crime and human trafficking here in the streets of Atlanta."
"Walls work and we are going to build that wall," Pence said. "We are going to secure our border, and we are going to continue to support the men and women of ICE here in Georgia and all across the country."