President Barack Obama coolly taunted congressional Republicans on Wednesday for dithering on his demand for billions to handle a flood of illegal immigration children streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time he flatly denied that his own policy decisions have led to the rapidly expanding human tragedy.
Calling the deluge a ‘humanitarian situation on the border,’ not an emergency or crisis, he parried claims that a 2012 executive order delaying the deportation of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants – those who had arrived in the U.S. as children before the summer of 2007 – incentivized children in Central America to make dangerous journeys to and across the Rio Grande river.
‘I think the challenge we have that has really caused a spike,’ Obama said in Dallas, ‘is the significant security challenges in the Central American countries themselves, and smugglers who increasingly recognize that they can make money transporting individuals ….across the border.’
Those conditions haven’t significantly evolved since he took office in 2009, many Republicans point out. But a series of reports from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador indicate that his policy, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was widely misinterpreted to mean that today’s under-18 set could enter the U.S. and stay indefinitely.
Obama, however, insisted that the overall ‘pattern of immigration into our country’ shows ‘a significantly lower level [of illegal crossings’ than we were when I took office.’
The president did not directly address the rapidly growing numbers of children who now make up the largest proportion of the total by far since the U.S. government began counting it.
Obama claimed Wednesday that his DACA policy, along with a far more ambitious ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ bill that has languished in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, should be seen as freeing up resources to tackle short-term challenges like the one currently plaguing Texas and Arizona.
‘DACA and comprehensive immigration reform generally, would allow us to reallocate resources,’ he said, because immigration officers would no longer be ‘chasing after families who may have been here for five or 10 years and are law abiding except for the fact they they came here illegally.’
When ‘they are no longer an enforcement priority, that suddenly frees up a lot of resources,’ he said.
His ‘comprehensive’ approach ‘would have put us in a stronger position to deal with this surge and, in fact, prevent it,’ Obama declared.
Capitol Hill Republicans have demanded that he use more of their existing appropriations to secure America’s southwest border. A few have threatened to deny him newest funding request unless he complies.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry met with Obama on Wednesday in Dallas and promptly issued a press release challenging him to do just that.
‘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.’
Confronted by a reporter who mentioned the statement, Obama was quick to assure the press corps that ‘I’m interested in securing the border.’
Perry’s role as a prop in Wednesday’s presidential theater began with a handshake after Air Force One landed for a presidential fundraising stop.