Vice President Mike Pence said the conditions in migrant detention centers are "heartbreaking" and "totally unacceptable," but blamed Congress for not appropriating funds to improve them.
"We're doing a lot with what the Congress has given us, but again Congress refused to increase the bed space in the last appropriations bill," Pence said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"They continue to delay efforts on additional humanitarian support," he added. "It could happen in 15 minutes if Democrats in Congress simply step up and agree to close the loopholes that we know human traffickers are using to exploit vulnerable families."
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: First I want to ask you about the president's announcement this morning that he has decided to delay the roundup of migrants. Why did the president announce this law enforcement operation?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well- well first let's - we have a crisis on our southern border. We are on track this year to have more than a million people come across our border and for the first time ever the vast majority are families that are bringing children with them to exploit what we understand are loopholes in our asylum laws. I mean if people come across our border, make a claim of asylum, we can detain them for only 20 days and then they're released into the United States. The truth is 90 percent of those claims are denied and the vast majority--
MARGARET BRENNAN: That figure has been disputed.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, but the vast majority never show up for their hearing. You know, a year, eighteen months, down the road. So- so the president is doing his job. We both took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this country. He set into motion an internal enforcement effort to remove people who've been given due process of law who've been adjudicated through a court order- ordered to be deported. But the president talking with Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats made the decision to delay two weeks and to call on the Congress once again to close the loopholes that human traffickers are using to exploit families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that going to happen in two weeks?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Honestly the- the- the president and I believe it could happen in 15 minutes. If Democrats in Congress will simply step up and agree to close the loopholes that we know human traffickers are using to exploit vulnerable families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But why did the president announce a law enforcement operation?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Add to that more humanitarian assistance on this overwhelmed system and we can solve the crisis.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You've lost the element of surprise because he announced the law enforcement operation. And that's why many are saying this is purely for political reasons that the president would announce rounding up of migrants.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Every one that the president said that we're going to identify and arrest and deport have already gone through the legal process. But- but that being said it- it's just essential that Congress step up. I mean the- the president declared a national emergency we're already building the wall on the southern border we'll have 400 miles built by the end of next year. But we recognize this new crisis of families coming up the peninsula taking the long and dangerous journey north at the hands of human traffickers often- often subject to violence and- and worse on the journey north.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about that.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We only saw that by more humanitarian assistance for the customs and border personnel that were doing their job every day. And by closing the loopholes that human traffickers are using.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the president's tweeting about rounding people up. He's not tweeting about some of the conditions that have been described as "crisis level" in the facilities that the United States is running, not across the border, not people who are out loose in the United States. But in U.S. detention facilities and there have been details released over the past few days by lawyers who've gone down and looked describing, "Children sleeping on cold floors," "filthy," "lice outbreaks," "flu outbreaks," "not in any way safe and sanitary conditions." Is that acceptable, and what does the White House going to do since, as you say, Congress is doing nothing. What are you going to do?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Margaret, it's- it's totally unacceptable. But the American people deserve to know that our dedicated Customs and Border Patrol agents are literally being overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of people coming across our border to take advantage of loopholes in our laws. But- but it's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are you going to do about it at the executive level?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well let me be clear. When the president declared a national emergency earlier this year, we were asking Congress in January to give us more bed space. Democrats in Congress refused. Congress continues- although Speaker Pelosi has indicated a willingness to look at- at a bill that would provide more humanitarian assistance. Over the next two weeks, we're going to look to get those resources as well as close the loopholes. But look, we've- we've asked for more bed space, we've asked for more support. Our Customs and Border Patrol agents are doing a- a job but the system is overwhelmed and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Homeland Security Secretary has sat here in- in your spot and said this, "crisis levels," for a year.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: It is. It is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So how is the executive totally powerless to do anything about these unsafe, unsanitary conditions?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, we're- we're- we're- we're doing a lot with what the Congress has given us. But again, Congress refused to increase the bed space in the last appropriations bill. They continue to delay efforts on additional humanitarian support.
MARGARET BRENN: We just have to accept these conditions that are being described here?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: No, absolutely not. It's one of the reasons why the president's taken the strong stand that he's taken on the crisis on our southern border. That's why the president took the strong stand that he took with Mexico just a few short weeks ago. He told the government in Mexico we're going to start imposing tariffs starting at five percent on all goods coming into the United States unless Mexico steps up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but this is within US borders that we're talking about.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I was in those negotiations with the Mexican delegation, the secretary of state and our team. And as we speak, Mexico is deploying 6000 troops to their southern border and for the first time ever, Mexico is taking back 100 percent of Central Americans who apply for asylum in our country that now will- that now will now remain in Mexico. We- we think that's part of the solution. But ultimately, closing loopholes, getting our dedicated Customs and Border Patrol agents more resources to deal with this overwhelming humanitarian crisis, that's how we address the issue. And- and the president and I are going to continue to stand strong, call on the Congress to do their job. It- it's amazing to think that- that- that Mexico has done more to secure our southern border in the last ten days than Democrats in Congress have done in the last ten years. The American people deserve better. We're going to continue to demand that Democrats in Congress step up.