By Rafael Bernal
March 9, 2017
Vice President Pence pledged to take a compassionate stance on immigration in a speech to a Latino business group Thursday.
Pence made the remarks in an address to The Latino Coalition, a group of Latino small business leaders, at its annual policy summit.
"As that debate goes forward we will, as the president promised, show great heart every step of the way," he said.
Pence said the administration would secure the borders and "restore respect for the laws of this country."
"The president and I believe that a system based on the rule of law will benefit every American, including our Hispanic Americans," he said.
Pence also quoted Trump's February address to Congress, saying that "real and positive immigration reform is possible."
Pence praised the business group, saying that that Hispanics are "leaps and bounds over every other American demographic" when it comes to driving entrepreneurship and the economy.
"I told [President Trump] I was headed your way and he was pleased to hear about it," Pence told the gathering.
"I told him I was headed to a conference entitled the 'Make Small Business Great Again Policy Summit' and he was very pleased."
Pence focused his speech on the Trump administration's regulatory policy. He told the audience that excessive regulations under President Obama hurt small businesses and repeated a Trump campaign pledge, now codified in an executive order, to erase two federal regulations for every new one set forth.
"When small business is strong, the American economy is strong," he said.
Pence also praised Latino small businesses as an agent of growth for the economy.
"The fact is, Hispanics are driving entrepreneurship and economic growth like never before," he said.
"The number of Latino-owned businesses grew over 15 percent over the last decade, leaps and bounds over every other American demographic," he added.
On healthcare, Pence said the Affordable Care Act made it harder for small businesses to grow, and pledged its replacement will come soon.
"The ObamaCare nightmare is about to come to an end," he said.
"I don't have to tell small business owners gathered here today about why this failed law has got to go."
The gathering was the first major public address to a Hispanic group by the president or vice president since inauguration.
Democrats were skeptical whether Pence's speech would improve relations between the administration and Hispanics, but welcomed more open communication.
"It's good that they realize they can have communication," said Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.). "We cannot get excited about communication without substance," he added.
"If it's just a meeting, there's no sense in getting excited," said Carbajal.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said she hoped the coalition would use the opportunity to present demands to the administration.
"I'm hopeful, whatever is going to be the agenda for Pence, that those folks require some kind of accountability in that dialogue," said Lujan Grisham.
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