President Obama on Wednesday said his meeting with Gov. Rick Perry in Dallas was constructive and that the governor’s concern over the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents working the Lone Star State’s swath of the border were valid.
But Obama also reiterated his belief that Republican opposition to immigration reform has fueled the influx of illegal migration into Texas. And he urged Perry to pressure the Texas congressional delegation to support a supplemental funding request for $3.7 billion to address the immigration surge in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.
“He was concerned about how many patrol agents were directly at the border. He was concerned that some of the positioning of Border Patrol agents is too far from the border to be effective in deterring folks from coming in as opposed to simply apprehending them,” the president said. “I indicated to him that what he said sounded like it made sense and that, in fact, if we pass the supplemental, we would then have the resources to carry out some of the very things that he’s requesting.”
Obama, however, continued to criticize what he called Republican stalling on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate passed last year. The measure would not only have beefed up border security, but would have helped stem the current crush of illegal activity in Texas, he said.
“In the long run, the best way to truly address this problem is for the House of Representatives to pass legislation fixing our broken immigration system, which, by the way, would include funding for additional thousands of border patrol agents, something that everybody I talk to indicates is a priority,” he said after his meeting with Perry.
In a statement released just before the president’s remarks, Perry said he urged Obama to “undertake the necessary steps to secure the border and ease the crises.”
“Five hundred miles south of here in the Rio Grande Valley, there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding that has been created by bad public policy, in particular the failure to secure the border,” Perry said in the statement. “Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done.”
In response to a reporter’s question about Perry’s statement and whether Republicans are willing to compromise, the president said that GOP lawmakers needed to come to the center and work with the administration. If the focus is on stemming the tide of illegal activity in Texas and not playing partisan politics, the president said, then Republicans should support his request for supplemental funds.
“The only disagreement I had with Governor Perry was, is that he wanted me to go ahead and do it without Congress having to do anything,” he said. “We’ll do what we can administratively. I think the useful question not simply for the governor, but for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the other members of the Texas delegation is, why wouldn’t you go ahead and pass a bill to give us additional resources to solve the very problem that you say is urgent?”
He also said he assumed the governor has some sway over Texas’ congressional delegation and urged Perry to “to call on them to pass this supplemental right away.”
The governor, along with other Republicans, had urged the president during his visit to Texas to witness for himself what is happening on the border. Obama said he wasn’t interested in “photo ops” on the border.
"I am interested in solving a problem,” he said.
Perry also suggested tweaking current federal policies that prevent unaccompanied minors from countries other than Canada and Mexico from being immediately deported. In his statement, he said the current rule is a magnet for illegal activity.
The president said that Perry's concerns over those policies and his worry that many undocumented immigrants from Central America would not show up to court-ordered immigration hearings scheduled months after they are first detained were valid. Obama added that those policies were enacted prior to his election.
“I indicated to him that part of what we're looking in the supplemental is some flexibility in terms of being able to preserve the due process rights of individuals who come in, but also to make sure that we’re sending a strong signal that they can’t simply show up at the border and automatically assume that they’re going to be absorbed,” the president said.