On Wednesday, as he spoke to an audience in Kansas City, Missouri, Mike Pence was heckled by a protester who asked: "Where are the children?" The demonstrator's comments are most likely in reference to more than 2,000 undocumented children who have been separated from their mothers and fathers under Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.
The protester yelled, "Mike, where are the children? Shame on you!" The vice president did not respond, and instead continued speaking. "It is great to be back in Kansas City," Pence said. Soon after the protester called Pence out, the crowd chanted, "USA! USA! USA!" as the protester was dragged out of the hall by the police.
Seemingly unbothered by the protester, Pence reiterated with a smile, "It really is great to be back." In the ABC News clip, the crowd can be heard laughing.
Various media reports, from BuzzFeed to The New York Times, have reported on the destitute conditions migrant children and pregnant women have faced in detention centers in the United States. According to a recent New York Times report, migrant children as young as 3 years old have been reportedly unable to recognize their very own mothers and fathers after being reunited following months of separation.
Mental health experts have expressed concern about the possible trauma children experience when they are torn from their parents for long periods of time.
The first protester wasn't alone in his demonstration against Pence. According to The Kansas City Star, another protester got up after the first one and called out the the vice president over the administration's practice of separating migrant children from their parents. The publication reported that the crowd, reportedly comprising mostly of Republicans, booed this individual as well.
Beyond the hall where Pence was, a small but steady crowd of protesters gathered at the Barney Allis Plaza, according to the newspaper, to protest the vice president's arrival in the city.
The protest in Kansas City arrives a few weeks after the president signed an executive order that would purportedly end his administration's family separation policy. In June, Trump said that while the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy for undocumented migrants would continue, it would end the practice of detaining children separately from their parents. This would mean that officials would still carry on prosecuting people crossing the southern border. Still, in spite of the executive order, critics remain skeptical about the sincerity or success of the president's move.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the current Department of Justice and Homeland Security would aggressively pursue those who cross the border illegally. "If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," Sessions said.
Prior to his appearance in Missouri, Pence spoke of the Trump administration's family separation policy and, echoing the president, blamed the Democrats for it. "I think the American people want the Democrats to stop the obstruction, to stop standing in the way of the kind of reforms at our border that will end the crisis of illegal immigration. We can solve this issue of separation," Pence said in June, according to KDKA News.
The New York Times reported that the number of children returned to their parents is not definitively known so far. In addition, the administration has already failed to abide by the deadline a court ordered for the reunion of undocumented children. Given these reports about the effects of the current immigration policy, it is no surprise that patience is wearing thin and that some are choosing to speak out.