Despite several actions the White House is taking to address the spiraling illegal immigration crisis at the U.S. border, President Barack Obama still "doesn't get it," Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu tells Newsmax.
"This president not only doesn't get it, he has completely failed in his core responsibilities to enforce the law and secure our border," Babeu, the chief law-enforcement officer in Pinal County in the southern part of the state, said in an interview Friday. "There is no longer any law when it comes to immigration. He's now termed it as 'a humanitarian crisis.' "
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Babeu, 45, a Republican who was first elected in 2008, ripped several efforts by the administration to address the worsening situation, particularly with minors traveling alone.
- Speeding up deportation hearings by adding more immigration judges and providing other enforcement resources.
- Meeting with Central American leaders to try to dispel rumors that legal status will be granted for illegals who arrive without documentation. Vice President Joe Biden met with leaders in Guatemala on the issue.
- Providing $9.6 million in additional support to Central American governments to receive and reintegrate their repatriated citizens.
- Visiting detention centers for illegal minors on military bases. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson toured the facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Similar facilities have been created in recent weeks on bases in California and Oklahoma.
- Opening new centers throughout the country for illegal families. The government operates only one now, in York County, Pa., which houses fewer than 100 people.
The moves came as the Department of Homeland Security announced that more than 52,000 illegal minors had been arrested at the U.S. border between October 2014 and June 15.
That was up from the 47,000 arrested through May that DHS disclosed last week. That number was more than double the previous 12 months.
Many of the young illegals come from Mexico and Central America. Immigration experts say they are fleeing poor economic conditions and widespread violence in their home countries, while Republicans charge that Obama administration policies are encouraging illegals to come to America.
Critics also have cited news reports in Central American media
that create the impression of lax enforcement of immigration laws by administration.
In addition, more than 174,000 people — mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — have been arrested in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas this year, according to DHS.
"After years of ignoring the law and sending a very dangerous message to Central American families, the administration is finally taking small steps to address this enormous problem," said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. "Now, it remains to be seen if the president will follow through."
Another Lone Star State Republican, gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, called the situation there an "administrative-made disaster."
"What the administration must do is make clear [to illegals], don’t risk your lives," said Abbott
, the attorney general who is running against Wendy Davis, Politico reports. "No way should the U.S. have an open-door policy to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras."
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe toured a detention center for illegal minors on Friday at the Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton, about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. About 600 children are housed there, and base officials have been told to prepare for as many as 1,400.
"Something must be done to secure our borders and to force the Obama administration to abide by our immigration laws," Inhofe said. "The flood of children coming to the border without parents is a humanitarian crisis, and the president is turning it into a national security issue by housing these individuals on our military installations."
Both House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Rep. David Schweikert demanded that President Obama to deploy the National Guard to help stem the crisis. Some Democrats have also slammed the president for not moving faster on the issue.
"Arizona border patrol agents are telling us that some of their best trackers, some of their best folks, are now providing social services at the detention facilities to children," Schweikert told "America's Forum"
on Newsmax TV
. "We need to shore up our border presence."
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In his Newsmax interview, Babeu challenged the recent DHS figures, saying they actually were closer to 60,000.
"Because there is no longer any consequence or enforcement of the law when it comes to immigration, don't be scratching your head when 60,000 turns into 200,000 or more," he said. "They understand that if they get to the border, they're home free.
"That's the message that President Obama just sent to everyone — not just in Mexico, but throughout Central America."
He called the Biden session in Central America "window dressing" and spoke strongly for National Guard troops at the border.
Former President George W. Bush deployed thousands of troops to the border during his second term as the Border Patrol bolstered its ranks. The patrol has nearly doubled to more than 20,000 agents and the number of immigrants caught crossing the border illegally has declined overall.
Babeu, a retired Army National Guard officer who once commanded 700 soldiers, cited a two-year effort he worked on with U.S. agents to secure a portion of the border at Yuma, Ariz.
The program — "Operation Jump Start — cut illegal immigration and drug-smuggling
by 98 percent, he said.
"What worked was armed soldiers," Babeu said. "We secured the border in Yuma."
That approach needs to be taken to secure the heavy-traffic sectors of the 2,000-mile border from California through Texas that the U.S. shares with Mexico, he said. Other necessary improvements include better fencing, lighting, sensors and security cameras.
"You have to have armed soldiers first — and you build the infrastructure necessary to secure the border at high-traffic areas. You don't need to build the 'great wall of Mexico,' of all 2,000 miles."
But none of this will be effective without stronger enforcement of the nation's immigration laws.
"There must be consequences for breaking the law," Babeu told Newsmax. "There is no enforcement of the law."
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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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