Pence: Yes, we want detained migrant children to have soap

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that "of course" the Trump administration believes migrant children being held at detention facilities should have access to soap, toothbrushes and other basic amenities, comments that come just days after the administration went to court to argue against having to provide the children with such things.

"Of course we do," Pence told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "My point is it's all a part of the appropriations process. Congress needs to provide additional support to deal with the crisis at our southern border."

Pence added that "we've got to get to the root causes" of migration, pointing to immigration "loopholes" before citing the administration's recent agreement with Mexico to curb the flow of migration.

Last week, a hearing before a panel of judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals went viral after a Justice Department lawyer, Sarah Fabian, argued that the government should not be required to provide detained migrant children with soap, toothbrushes, showers and other amenities at Customs and Border Protection's detention facilities.

The argument stunned judges, who asked the attorney whether the government could describe conditions at the detention centers as "safe and sanitary" if the children were not provided with such basic toiletries and sleeping conditions.

RELATED: Migrants trekking to the U.S. rely on faith

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Migrants trekking to the United States rely on faith
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Migrants trekking to the United States rely on faith

Pastor Jose Murcia, 47, preaches to migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Nicolas Alonso Sanchez, 47, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds a cross at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. "God helped me and gave me the strength, helped me to make my dreams come true. God gave me all the strength to get all the way here," Sanchez said. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., pray before food distribution outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico December 1, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Juan Francisco, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., shows his tattoo of the 23rd Psalm of the Book of Psalms as he poses for a picture outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Victor Alfonso, 29, from Guatemala, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he wears charms depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

David Amador, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds a cross at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 28, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., raise their hands while praying before moving by buses to a new shelter, in Tijuana, Mexico November 30, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., is wrapped with a banner depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe in front of a riot police cordon, as migrants try to reach the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Herso, 17, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he wears a t-shirt depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A booklet of Psalm 119:105 is left on a self-made tent at a temporary shelter of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico November 27, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan from El Salvador traveling to the U.S., pray as they are blocked by the Mexican police during an operation to detain them for entering the country illegally, in Metapa, Mexico November 21, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., raise their hands as they listen to the preaching of pastor Jose Murcia (not pictured) outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., sleeps with a book in Spanish "What does the Bible teach us?" in a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A writing "Jesus Christ is the Lord" is seen on a car window outside a temporary shelter for a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Elmer, 29, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds an icon depicting Jesus Christ and the Virgin of Guadalupe while lining up for food distribution outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Juan Francisco, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., shows his tattoo reading "I can do everything with Christ who strengthens me" as he poses for a picture outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

An image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is seen in a tent of migrants part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, on a street in Tijuana, Mexico, December 15, 2018.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

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"To me it's more like it's within everybody's common understanding: If you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it's not safe and sanitary," Judge A. Wallace Tashima said. "Wouldn't everybody agree to that? Would you agree to that?"

Fabian conceded that "those things may be" part of the definition of safe and sanitary conditions.

Speaking on Sunday, Pence said he could not "speak to what that lawyer was saying," adding that "one of the reasons" the administration sought more bed spaces in the facilities earlier this year was to improve conditions. Democrats wanted to cap the number of beds in the detention facilities so that the administration would prioritize criminals and stop the detention of undocumented immigrants who otherwise have not broken the law.

When CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out to Pence that the conditions at the facilities have led to health crises, Pence said, "No American should approve of this mass influx of people coming across our border" and called the scene at detention centers "heartbreaking."

The government was in court last week to appeal a 2017 ruling in a case dating to the Obama administration that migrants were detained in unsanitary conditions. As The New York Times reported last week, "A chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held," according to lawyers who visited the facility.

On CNN, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juliàn Castro, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said: "They can get a billion dollars or more for a wall, all of a sudden out of nowhere, but they can't afford soap and toothbrushes for children."

"It doesn't make any sense," he added.

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