Pence tells Central American leaders to respect U.S. borders

June 29 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told leaders of Central America’s Northern Triangle region to do more to stem illegal immigration, saying United States borders must be “respected.”

Pence is traveling throughout Latin America to encourage leaders to respect the United States’ border and to put pressure on Venezuela in response to the economic and humanitarian crisis there.

“This exodus must end,” Pence said Thursday during a meeting with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the countries where most undocumented migrants begin their journeys to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The vice president said the leaders must stop their citizens from coming to the United States.

“Just as we respect your borders and your sovereignty, we insist that you respect ours,” Pence said. “Our nation needs your nations to do more.”

Pence, joined on his trip by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, told the foreign leaders to tell “your people that coming to the United States illegally will only result in a hard journey and a harder life.”

Economic struggles and increasing gang violence have prompted hundreds of thousands of people in the three countries to flee to the U.S. in search of a better life.

“If you want to come to the United States, come legally, or don’t come at all,” Pence said in a televised segment to people of the three nations. “If someone tells you they can bring you or your children to America outside the law don’t believe them.

“Don’t risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on the road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers. Hold on to your homes and hold on to your children. Build your lives in your homes,” Pence said.

The vice president suggested several steps the Central American countries could take to help, including increasing border police, enhancing anti-gang and anti-corruption efforts and removing public advertisements for human traffickers.