Vice President Pence visits Baltimore to honor Secret Service agent, tour ICE facility

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Vice President Mike Pence visited Baltimore Wednesday, presenting an award to an Annapolis man at a conference of Hispanic law enforcement officials before touring the local office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Pence received a standing ovation from about 200 officials of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, a national organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, police superintendents and other law enforcement commanders.

Audience members also applauded when Pence, speaking at an Inner Harbor hotel, said President Donald Trump sent greetings.

The vice president presented a top association award to Secret Service agent Hector Hernandez of Annapolis, who has served under three presidents and is now the special agent in charge of the vice presidential protective division. Hernandez was among the responders to the domestic terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 that killed 168 people.

“I have to tell you, he’s been a fan favorite of the Pence family,” said the vice president. “He is a professional to his very core.”

Hernandez told the audience in a ballroom of the Embassy Suites Inner Harbor how his Mexican-born parents “never once took assistance from anyone” after completing paperwork and relocating to the United States in 1959, before he was born.

“They felt the United States was built on hard work,” Hernandez said in an interview afterward.

Hernandez demurred when asked about recent issues at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has threatened recently to close the border because he says the American immigration system is severely strained.

“My part in it is just to keep the vice president safe,” Hernandez said.

After speaking to the association, Pence took a brief tour of Baltimore’s ICE office on South Gay Street with Rep. Andy Harris.

ICE is in transition. Last month, Trump withdrew the nomination of acting director Ron Vitiello to become the permanent agency chief. The president told reporters he wanted to go in a “tougher direction.”

The two listened to ICE employees talk about their efforts in Maryland seizing the deadly opioid fentanyl, arresting human traffickers and cracking down on MS-13 gang members. Maryland had the second-most defendants in federal human trafficking cases last year. And Baltimore had the fifth most fentanyl overdose deaths in the country, according to the agents.

Pence thanked them for their work and said the Trump administration had just submitted a supplemental budgetary request to help the agency meet its mission.

He reemphasized the need for Congress to work with the administration to help stem the flows of immigrants across the southern border.

“The president has done his job. You do you your job,” he said. “It’s time for Congress to do their job and for the Democrats in Congress to do their job and bring the security and humanitarian crisis to an end.”

Pence took one reporter question about the upheaval in Venezuela, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó is attempting to overthrow the current president Nicolás Maduro.

“America stands with the only legitimate president of Venezuela — Juan Guaidó,” Pence said.

The vice president said it was “heartening” to see the tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in Venezuela and then speaking in Spanish and in English, he said he wanted them to know “we are with you.”

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