Vice President Pence has been praised for his difference in tone from President Trump on policy and cultural issues.
The latest focus has been on how the two are responding to the global refugee crises in Syria, Latin America and elsewhere. But if their actual policies don’t vary much, tone is not likely to make that much of a difference to those who find this administration's approach to refugees fundamentally problematic.
During a speech this past weekend in Lima, Peru, Pence displayed what some may consider to be the compassionate conservatism that the last Republican president attempted to make more the norm among the GOP. The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson reported Pence speaking about a grandmother he met in Colombia who fled her home in Venezuela with her five grandchildren.
“She told me, with tears in her eyes, how the poverty had become so acute, her grandchildren had to stand in line at 5 in the morning to get a ticket to buy a piece of bread at 5 in the afternoon. And that was the sum total of sustenance that was available to their family.”
“Remember to pray for people that are struggling under the weight of tyranny.”
But while Pence invokes prayer, his track record does not show him to be very welcoming.
As the governor of Indiana, Pence tried to block Syrian refugees from settling in his state for fear that some could be terrorists, a concern that Trump repeated on the campaign trail. Since the 2016 presidential campaign, critics on both sides of the aisle have attacked the White House for caricaturing refugees, despite data showing that most are women and children.
While campaigning, Trump promised that he would deport any Syrian refugees allowed in the United States under the Obama administration.
“They’re going to be gone. They will go back. … I’ve said it before, in fact, and everyone hears what I say, including them, believe it or not,” Trump said of the refugees. “But if they’re here, they have to go back, because we cannot take a chance. You look at the migration, it’s young, strong men. We cannot take a chance that the people coming over here are going to be ISIS-affiliated.”
Shortly after Trump canceled his visit to the Summit of the Americas — the first American president to do so in nearly a quarter of a century — to respond to the latest crisis affecting the Syrian people, critics drew attention to just how few Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the U.S. since Trump took office.
The Washington Post previously reported that only 44 Syrian refugees have come to the United States since October 2017, according to State Department data. There were 6,557 admitted in 2017 and 12,587 in 2016.
And Trump’s portrayal of the thousands of Latin American refugees leaving their home countries has also been called both inaccurate and unsympathetic — but is unchallenged by Pence. The president has said that asylum should be much harder to obtain for Latin American refugees.
Overall, the Trump administration has capped the number of refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the United States this fiscal year at 45,000 — the lowest cap ever set by a president since the practice began in 1980 and a more than 50 percent cut in the 110,000 limit set by President Barack Obama.
Critics say the number that will actually be accepted will be even lower than that decreased limit. During the first six months of this fiscal year, only 10,548 refugees were resettled, according to Refugee Council USA, a coalition that has been tracking the numbers.
In the latest Quinnipiac poll, only 39 percent of Americans approve of how the Trump administration is handling foreign policy.
If Pence’s prayers come with closed doors to those seeking refuge from tyrannical governments, these numbers aren’t likely to increase much.