Obama on border crisis: ‘This isn’t theater. This is a problem.’


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve his $3.7 billion request to address the growing number of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the southern border, but acknowledged that partisan politics are already hurting chances of the bill passing.

“Are folks more interested in politics or interested in solving a problem?” Obama asked in remarks late Wednesday. “If I sponsored a bill declaring apple pie American, it might fall victim to partisan politics.”

On Tuesday, Obama asked Congress for emergency funding for additional Border Patrol agents and judges, more detention facilities, an increase in the prosecution of smuggling networks and a media campaign to discourage parents from sending their children to the United States.

“There's a very simple question here,” Obama said. “Congress needs to just pass the supplemental.”

Obama spoke from Dallas after meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a frequent critic of the president on immigration, and state and local officials about border security.

Obama said after the meetings the two men did not disagree on the issue and that he asked Perry to speak the Texs congressional delegation about the emergency spending.

“What I emphasized to the governor is the problem here is not a major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful in dealing with the problem,” Obama said. “The challenge is: is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done?”

Perry, Obama said, told him he should go ahead and act. “I had to remind him I'm getting sued by Speaker Boehner, apparently,” Obama said about a pending lawsuit by the speaker over his executive actions.

Obama says he will consider sending the National Guard to the border, as some lawmakers have called for, but that's only a temporary solution. “This is not a short-term problem,” he said. “This is a long-term problem.”

He said the United States needs to pass a rewrite of immigration laws that could help solve the problem for two decades as well as help other countries “get their act together” so parents don't want to send their kids.

Obama also warned parents not to send their children on the dangerous journey from Central America to the United States.

“We intend to do the right thing by these children, but their parents need to know…it is unlikely that their children will...stay,” he said.

Obama was in Texas raising money for Democrats. Lawmakers continued to criticize him for failing to visit the border.

“This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops,” Obama said when he was asked why he did not visit the border. “I'm interested in solving a problem.”

Obama had been to the border on a couple of previous occasions, as a candidate and as president, and Obama said he has sent Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to the border five times. He will visit for a sixth time this week.

The number of unaccompanied children traveling from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, most through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, has surged despite an increase in deportations. About 52,000 minors traveling without their parents have been caught at the Southwest border since October.

Obama announced last week that he’s also asking lawmakers to pass legislation to provide Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, with greater discretion to deport immigrants even from Central American countries.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law that gave unaccompanied children from noncontiguous countries greater legal protections than those who arrive illegally from Mexico or Canada.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, file photo, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago. Court documents released Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, show  that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to Wisconsin Club for Growth, which would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him. The emails were part of some 1,300 pages released by a federal appeals court from a secret investigation into whether Walker's recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups.

    Emails show Walker recall election campaign push

    Newly released court documents include excerpts from emails showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to a key conservative group that would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him.

  • Biden: US would help Iraq pursue federal system

    Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. is prepared to help Iraq pursue a federal system that would decentralize power away from Baghdad.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig answers questions at a news conference, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, prior to a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves in Cincinnati. Cincinnati hosts the All-Star game in 2015.

    Selig hasn't changed outlook about Rose

    As his term winds down, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig hasn't changed his outlook on Pete Rose's lifetime ban for gambling.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category