Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, in Guatemala for a humanitarian mission, also criticized President Barack Obama's immigration policy during a meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina.
Paul, who practiced as an ophthalmologist before becoming a senator in 2010, volunteered his surgical services in poverty-stricken Guatemala, and told Breitbart News
that his meeting with Molina was held to talk about the mission, not about politics or foreign affairs.
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"We met for 45 minutes or so, mostly about the humanitarian mission — we talked about the surgeries and the people we met on the trip up there and my son doing a water project for the local school," Paul said of the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.
However, the conversation turned to immigration and the situation at the United States' southern border, where thousands of unaccompanied minors — many from Guatemala — are crossing illegally.
"I told him, frankly, that I didn't think the problem was in Guatemala City but that the problem was in the White House in our country, and that the mess we've got at the border is frankly because of the White House's policies," Paul said after the meeting.
Paul also criticized Obama about plans to use his executive powers to order amnesty for immigrants, and said Central Americans are flocking to the United States because of the president's policies.
"It comes from the president basically offering unilaterally without congressional approval beacons or magnets without securing the border," Paul said.
Paul is backing a plan from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., for a vote on a House bill blocking Obama's amnesty plans.
"I'm supportive of the House bill and I think it will go a long way to fixing the problem," Paul said. "But like everything else, nothing good has happened because Sen. Reid has decided that he's not going to allow any votes on any bills this year because he's protecting his members who are vulnerable in the election — he's protecting them from any kind of votes . . . There's been almost no votes on any bills this year because they're [the Democrats are] frankly afraid of letting their members vote in public."
Paul has been making humanitarian trips since before he was a public feature, and says he did not intend his stay in Guatemala to be political.
"My goal in coming here was to try to help people see," he said. "I leave here with a great deal of hope and a great deal of feeling good about the smiles on the faces of those who were able to see and hopefully work again."
Paul, who has presidential aspirations for 2016, announced his current trip a few months ago, and said he did it because he wanted to practice medicine again. He remains licensed in Kentucky, a state where he established a certification board of his own after disputing with another governing body for his speciality.
And while he's done pro bono work
for years in Kentucky, he said he's wanted to be part of a foreign medical mission for some time.
"The reason we're here is to try to help people," he said. "It's something I spent a long time learning to do. It really is my passion — medicine and doing surgery. I'd hate to give up a skill that I spent a long time learning to do."
Being a surgeon, Paul says, is far different from being a senator, as doctors work on solutions.
"In Washington, nothing is ever solved," he said. "Nobody can just try to solve a problem and fix it or diagnose a problem and fix it. In medicine, there's not a lot of arguing . . . For the most part, everyone knows what's wrong, figures out what's wrong and moves on to a solution."
But the mission also has many of the trappings of a political trip, as Paul isn't only with doctors, reports The Post. He's being followed around by television cameras, photographers, reporters, press secretaries, and conservative activist David Bossie, The Post said.
Bossie, a documentary filmmaker, is the founder of Citizens United, which won a Supreme Court ruling to allow corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited funds in political campaigns. He is shooting footage that he says will either appear in a film about Paul or an issue related to him.
Paul's entourage also includes, in addition to family and friends, his top political aide, Doug Stafford and political ad makers Rex Elsass and Rick Tyler.
His aides stressed that no taxpayer money was spent on the trip. Several political donors, including Donald Trump, donated money to the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center, which organized the mission. Another Utah group, Hope Alliance, also helped with the expenses. Meanwhile, the Guatemalan presidential security detail itself provided security for Paul, along with his own personal bodyguard.
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