Obama defends immigration policy

7/9/2014

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Christi Parsons

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Christi Parsons

Tribune Washington Bureau

DALLAS (MCT) — President Barack Obama faced sharp criticism for his immigration policies here Wednesday even as the White House stepped up efforts to cope with the tens of thousands of children and teens from Central America who have poured into Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

Obama insisted he is "intimately aware of" the problems on the Southwest border, telling a news conference that his administration has assigned more Border Patrol agents and deployed more surveillance than ever before to stop illegal immigration, and deports almost 400,000 people each year.

Pressed to explain why he isn't visiting Border Patrol stations or detention facilities during his two-day visit to Texas, he said that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has visited the border five times recently "at my direction" and "then comes back to me and reports extensively everything that is taking place."

"So there's nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on," Obama said.

"This isn't theater," he added. "This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving the problem."

With new Customs and Border Patrol figures showing that 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended after illegally crossing the border since last October — an increase of 5,000 since June 15 — Vice President Joe Biden called the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to seek their assistance in stemming the flow.

Making his first trip to the state since the crisis hit the headlines this summer, Obama was greeted on the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by Gov. Rick Perry, who has decried the president's immigration policies. The two shared a 15-minute helicopter flight and a limousine ride before attending a roundtable discussion about border issues.

In a subsequent statement, Perry did not directly attack Obama. "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," Perry said. "Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done."

Asked to respond by reporters, Obama called on Congress to make the $3.7 billion available and to pass immigration reforms. "The bottom line is, actually, there is nothing the governor indicated he'd like to see that I have a philosophical objection to," Obama said.

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