By Ian Swanson - 04-22-17 07:05 AM EDT
Vice President Pence said Saturday that the U.S. will honor an agreement with Australia to take in as many as 1,250 refuges, even though President Trump called it a "dumb" deal from the Obama era.
"Let me make it clear the United States intends to honor the agreement, subject to the results of the vetting processes that now apply to all refugees considered for admission to the United States of America," Pence said at a joint press conference in Sydney with Australian Prim Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The refugees are being held in detention camps in two islands near Australia - Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Trump and Turnbull reportedly had a tense phone call about the refugees early in Trump's term, during which Trump called the Obama deal to accept the refugees "dumb."
Trump campaigned on a tough immigration policy, and one of his first and most controversial actions as president was to freeze the U.S. refugee resettlement program. During the campaign, Trump argued the program could lead to terrorists entering the United States, though there is no evidence that this has happened.
Pence made it clear in his public remarks that the Trump administration still has serious reservations about the deal.
"President Trump has made it clear that we'll honor the agreement," Pence said. "It doesn't mean we admire the agreement. Frankly, looking back on the last administration, the President has never been shy about expressing frustration with other international agreements, most notably the so-called nuclear agreement with Iran. But rest assured, as I confirmed today with the prime minister, the United States will honor the agreement."
Turnbull in his remarks thanked Pence for honoring the agreement, saying it spoke to the "integrity" of Trump and his administration.
"It's a very important commitment, and we thank you for restating that today," he said.