President Barack Obama said late Wednesday that he would not visit the Texas border to see the illegal immigration crisis up close while in the Lone Star State for three Democratic fundraisers, because "I'm not interested in photo-ops."
"This isn't theater," Obama said at a news conference in Dallas. "This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo-ops. I'm interested in solving a problem."
But his remarks were immediately slammed by Republicans, including the state's senior senator, John Cornyn.
"Texans do not need a lecture from a man who refuses to even see the crisis first-hand," the Senate Minority Whip told Newsmax.
"President Obama can fund-raise and issue statements," he added. "Texans will work to solve the problem."
Obama has come under fire from Republicans, law-enforcement officers, and state officials for his plans to attend fundraisers
in Dallas and Austin on Wednesday and Thursday but not to visit south Texas to see the conditions created by the deluge of illegals — particularly children traveling alone — who have been arrested at the border in recent months.
Obama's remarks came after he met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of his harshest critics. He told reporters he would consider the Republican governor's suggestions for stemming the crisis — including sending National Guard troops to the border — and urged Congress to approve his $3.7 billion request for emergency funding.
"Congress just needs to pass the supplemental," Obama said.
Between Oct. 1 and June 15, more than 181,000 illegals
have been arrested by Border Patrol agents while entering the U.S. More than 52,000 minors have also been apprehended. Many of them came from Mexico and such Central American countries as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The Rio Grande Valley of south Texas has been a particular hotbed for illegal immigration — and more than 1,800 of the minors have passed through a detention center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Detention centers have also been set up at Fort Sill
Army Base in Oklahoma and at Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California. The temporary housing costs taxpayers $252 per child per day.
In Dallas, Obama said he didn't need to visit the border because Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had been there five times and "he then comes back and reports to me extensively on everything that's taking place."
"There's nothing that is taking place down there that I am not extensively aware of and briefed on." Johnson is going back the border again later this week, Obama said.
"I'm interested in securing the border," he added. "The only disagreement I had with Gov. Perry was that he wanted me to go ahead and do it without Congress having to do anything. We'll do what we can administratively."
He also called for Texas Republicans to take a critical role in urging Congress to pass the $3.7 billion, and again plugged comprehensive immigration reform.
"That's not a permanent solution," Obama said, referring to Perry's call for the National Guard. "And so, why wouldn't we go ahead and pass the permanent solution, or at least a longer-term solution?
"If the Texas delegation said for us to pass the supplemental, we want to include the commitment that we'll send some National Guard early, I'd be happy to consider it.
"This should not be hard to at least get the supplemental done," he added. "The question is are we more interested in politics or are we more interested in solving the problem? If we're interested in solving the problem, then there's actually some broad consensus around a number of the issues.
"There may be some controversies and differences between Democrats and Republicans on some of the policy issues, but on a whole bunch of this stuff there's some pretty broad consensus. Let's just get that done. Let's do the work," Obama said.
But Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint called Obama's speech "extraordinarily dishonest."
"What we now see is a small taste of what happens when you start talking about amnesty," DeMint, a Republican who represented South Carolina in the Senate from 2005 through last year, told Greta Van Susteren
on her Fox News program.
As for comprehensive immigration reform to solve the crisis, "We know it'll make it worse," he said.
DeMint charged that Obama did not need the $3.7 million because the current federal budget includes a half-trillion dollars for domestic security, including border security.
"Congress is considering more now for next year's appropriation's bill, so an emergency appropriations bill is not needed," he said.
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