President Barack Obama declined a visit to the border to see up close the crisis of children crossing illegally from Central America, so Texas Gov. Rick Perry took Fox News host Sean Hannity instead on Thursday.
Obama was in Texas earlier this week for Democratic fundraisers, but said he didn't need a "photo-op" and was well aware of what is happening on the border.
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Hannity showed highlights of the day on his show Thursday night, beginning with a briefing in which the governor and Hannity were warned they would have to remind themselves they are in America because a lot of what they would see would "look like Middle East conflicts."
During a helicopter flight over the border area, Perry pointed out areas where "strategic fencing" has been put into place. A triple layer of concrete barrier, fencing and a dirt road where border agents can see fresh footprints are used only in more highly populated areas, Perry said, because it makes the most economic sense to do so.
Perry said he prefers to use drone flights to monitor less-frequented areas, with teams of border agents ready to be dispatched whenever illegal crossers are found.
The pair next joined a boat patrol along the Rio Grande. Perry said Texas put the boats in place when it realized "the federal government wasn't going to act."
Perry has moved National Guard members to the border, but asked Obama in a private meeting on Wednesday for 1,000 additional troops on a emergency basis until 3,000 new border patrol agents can be placed along the border to deter illegal crossings.
"The visual of that is what's so powerful," Perry said, adding that word will quickly get back that armed agents will be waiting at the border – not 50 miles inland as they are now – to prevent people from setting foot on American soil.
Perry said he wanted Obama to come to the border not for political reasons, but because when the president shows up somewhere, everyone pays attention.
Perry said Obama genuinely seemed to not to understand that border agents currently are so far from the border and indicated he would be willing to move them closer.
But he said that Obama did not give a definite promise of action.
"I think that's his nature to not necessarily give an answer," Perry said. "I think he's got a short window of time in which to deal with this."
Perry sent Obama another letter Thursday following their Wednesday meeting, Politico reported
"Although we must address the humanitarian crisis related to unaccompanied minors, any response by the federal government that does not include providing the resources necessary to secure our border only addresses a symptom, not the true problem," Perry wrote. "Securing our border will provide an immediate reduction in the number of illegal immigrants entering our country, which is the source of this current crisis."
Obama told the press after their meeting he had no philosophical differences with his suggestions, but asked the governor to press the Texas delegation to approve the $3.7 billion in spending he requested to help alleviate the crisis.
"It is encouraging to know that you agree philosophically with the solutions I presented to you for achieving true border security," Perry wrote in his letter. "No state is better versed in this than Texas, and I, along with state and local law enforcement officials and Texas’ Congressional Delegation, are ready and willing to help the federal government meet its responsibility to secure the border for the safety and security of all Americans."
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have been arriving from Central America over the past several months. Many are unaccompanied children and mothers who believe they will be granted legal status because of a 2008 law preventing the immediate deportation of minors from country not bordering the United States.
Obama also signed an order in 2010 that delayed the process of illegal immigrants who came into the country as children.
Hector Garza, spokesman for the Border Patrol Council, told Hannity that the agents he represents complain that the federal government is aiding and abetting the border crossings by releasing children into the hands of relatives, many of whom are likely in the United States illegally themselves.
"Why would anyone want to hire a smuggler when the federal government is doing it for free?" Garza said.
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