Vice President Mike Pence hosted the White House’s annual Cinco de Mayo celebration on Thursday, where he lauded Mexican-American contributions to the country and said the president has made Latinos “a priority.”
Pence’s remarks stand in stark contrast to many actions and comments from both President Donald Trump and his administration. Trump did not attend the event, held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but Pence repeatedly spoke on behalf of the president.
“We are, as the saying goes, with a few exceptions, a nation of immigrants, and that’s as true today as it was at the hour of America’s birth,” Pence said during the ceremony, according to The Hill.
“The president has made the Latino community a priority and we always will,” he added.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutierrez were also present at the event.
“True friendship, they say, must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity to be worthy of its name,” Gutierrez said, according to CNN. “May this Cinco de Mayo remind us all, as Presidents Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln foresaw, that strong and successful Mexico is in the interest of the United States, as much as a strong and successful United States is in the interest of Mexico.”
Pence also discussed how Latino and Mexican-American families have contributed “their voices and talents to making America great.”
“Economically, culturally, in our churches, our towns and cities across this country, the truth is that Mexican-Americans and Hispanic Americans as a whole make a difference in America every single day,” he added. “And that really is what we celebrate in Cinco de Mayo.”
The vice president’s words go against some of the things Trump has said about Mexican immigrants, including his remarks during his presidential bid announcement in 2015.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said at the time. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Shortly after his inauguration, Trump also signed an executive order to begin construction on his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and threatened to defund cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The Trump administration has also done away with Obama-era deportation priorities, exposing the vast majority of undocumented immigrants to the threat of expulsion. The uptick in immigration enforcement has recently resulted in a mother of four with no criminal record and a 23-year-old Dreamer with active deportation protection via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program being sent to Mexico, among others.