Vice President Mike Pence visited the Port of Baltimore on Friday to thank U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and defend the administration's immigration goals.
"It is remarkable to think about how long the port of Baltimore has played a role in this nation... and it continues to play a vital role in the commerce of our nation today," Pence said.
Prior to his speech, Pence was briefed by officials from the CBP and its Baltimore field office and was shown some of the methods officers use to scan shipments, including scanners and K9 unit. He was joined by Rep. Andy Harris, the sole Republican in Maryland's congressional delegation.
The Baltimore field office seized more than 3,500 pounds of drugs illegally smuggled into the country last year alone.
Delivering a message of thanks from President Donald Trump, Pence visited Baltimore as negotiations continue that the administration hopes lead to $5.7 billion in funding for Trump's prized wall on the southern border. In Washington on Friday, congressional negotiators appeared closer to a deal involving a much lower dollar amount, as well as a focus on the type and location of barriers. The deal is also expected to include funding for high-tech surveillance and more personnel.
No one ruled out that last-minute problems could emerge, especially with Trump's penchant for head-snapping turnabouts. But the momentum was clearly toward clinching an agreement that Congress could pass by next Friday. The next day, many government agencies would have to close again for lack of money, if no deal is reached.
In Baltimore, Pence commended CBP personnel for their commitment to their work, despite being unpaid during the 35-day shutdown that ended with the passage of a temporary funding bill last month.
"You all stood tall, you stayed on your watch in the midst of that shutdown, you stayed on mission," Pence said.
Pence appeared to pledge that no matter what the outcome of congressional negotiations, the administration's objective on the southern border remained the same.
"I want to make you a promise that we're going to continue-- to secure our border, north, south, east and west," Pence said. "We're going to build that wall one way or another, I promise you."