Obama on a Border Tour: ‘This Isn’t Theater’

President Barack Obama is greeted by Texas Governor Rick Perry as he arrives in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014.

Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama is greeted by Texas Governor Rick Perry as he arrives in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Barack Obama emerged from their private meeting with civil and religious leaders in Dallas today with some suggestions.

“Deploy an additional 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border to immediately enhance border security operations,” Perry suggested. “Direct the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the National Guard to utilize Predator drones along the Texas-Mexico border for identifying and tracking human and drug trafficking.”

“Right now, there are more Border Patrol” and surveillance officials on the ground than at any time in history, said Obama, noting that the problem isn’t a flood of refugee children entering the U.S. illegally — most are being caught and detained, he said. The problem is housing and processing them, as most ultimately will be deported.

In the long range, Obama said, the best way to address the problem is for the House to approve a Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill — which authorizes thousands of added border agents.

Obama, calling the meeting with Perry “constructive,” said the government will have the resources to carry out some of his plans if Congress approves the emergency bill seeking almost $4 billion that the president has presented to lawmakers this week.

There’s nothing the governor proposed that Obama has “a philosophical objection to,” the president said. “The problem here isn’t a major disagreement” around the solutions needed. The challenge, he said, is getting congressional approval. Calling Perry’s 1,000 added National Guard troops on the border a temporary solution, he did say it’s one that could be financed if Congress approves his supplemental budget.

Ultimately, the question is: “Are folks more interested in politics or solving the problem?” Obama asked, pointing again to Congress. “If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved.”

The president walked through some of the concerns that Perry raised in their meeting. He didn’t initially mention this one:

“Visit the Texas-Mexico border to witness firsthand the impact of the border crisis” — Perry’s office listed this first among the requests the governor made to the president.

The president, who held this meeting in Dallas en route to two campaign fundraisers for his party’s congressional candidates tonight and another tomorrow morning in Austin, Texas, has no plans to inspect a border situation that many members of his administration already have seen.

Obama was asked about this by a reporter.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “has now visited, at my direction, the border five times,” Obama said. “He then comes back to me and reports extensively everything that is taking place.”

There is nothing happening at the border about which he is not aware, the president asserted.

“This isn’t theater,” the president said. . This is a problem. I;’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.”



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