Emerging from a meeting on the border crisis with one of his harshest critics, President Obama said he and Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, don’t have a major disagreement about how to handle the problem, the challenge is Congress.
“The problem here is not a major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful in dealing with the problem. The challenge is, is Congress willing to act to get this done,” the president told reporters. “The question is are we more interested in politics or are we more interested in solving the problem.”
The president urged Republicans to put politics aside and act on his request for $3.7 in emergency funding to cope with the influx of unaccompanied minors flooding across the border.
“Congress has the ability to work with all parties involved to directly help this solution,” Obama said. “This supplemental offers them the ability to work immediately to get this done.”
Roughly half of the funding would go to the Department of Health and Human Services to provide care for the surge of children crossing the border, including additional beds.
The rest would be split between several departments to tackle the issue on both sides of the border, including $1.6 billion to the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to boost law enforcement at the Southwest border and pay for additional immigration judge teams, among other things, and $300 million to the State Department to tackle the root causes of this crisis and to send a clear message to these countries not to send children illegally to the U.S.
The president is also seeking more leeway under the current law to speed up the deportation of the unaccompanied children, most of whom are from central America.
“The issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials; the issue is that we're apprehending them in large numbers. And we're working to make sure that we have sufficient facilities to detain, house and process them appropriately while attending to unaccompanied children with the care and compassion that they deserve while they're in our custody,” Obama explained.
“While we intend to the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay,” he added.
Perry had urged Obama to visit the Rio Grande Valley but reportedly declined an initial offer to greet the president for a quick handshake on the tarmac unless Obama was also willing to have a substantive meeting.
The governor has publicly slammed the president for his handling of the crisis, blaming him for the influx of unaccompanied minors and even suggesting he is part of a “coordinated effort” to bring children over the border.
“I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from,” Perry told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week” on Sunday.
In addition to attending a roundtable meeting with local officials and faith leaders to discuss the crisis, Obama and Perry also got some one-on-one time. Perry greeted Obama on the tarmac in Dallas and rode with the president to the meeting aboard Marine One.
Despite mounting political pressure, Obama is resisting calls for him to personally visit the border during his two-day visit to Texas.
“This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving the problem,” Obama said, noting his top aides, including his Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have recently visited the border. “There’s nothing that is taking place there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on.”