Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle fave their 2 cents during the weekend about the growing Central American immigration boom and President Barack Obama’s handling of the situation.
Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose district sits along the U.S.-Mexican border, told CNN’s “State of the Union” Obama “should have been ready for this surge.”
“With all due respect I think he’s still one step behind,” Cuellar said. “They knew this was happening a year ago, and again they’re not reacting fast enough at this time in my opinion.”
Cuellar said he hoped the Obama administration could secure $2 billion in emergency funding Obama requested from Congress to help expedite the deportation process and pay for much-needed humanitarian aid. He also argued the problem runs deeper than a failure to act in Washington, that smugglers had made $240 million getting people across the border and are likely fueling rumors the United States is a safe haven for migrants.
Cuellar was joined on “State of the Union” by Alan Long, the mayor of Murrieta, California, where protesters blocked a bus of undocumented migrants from reaching a processing facility in the town. Long’s community was thrust into the national spotlight following the incident and now has become a flashpoint for the debate. Pro-immigrant rights supporters and groups of people protesting the migrants’ arrival have demonstrated in the city and violence broke out on at least one occasion.
Long criticized the federal government for failing to provide adequate health and safety services to the migrants who arrived at Murrieta’s processing facility. He called the Border Patrol facility “inhumane,” saying “it’s a jail cell. I inspected them personally,” Long said.
"These human lives are not being taken care of and they should be taken care of as they cross the border," Long continued. "Our military is able to set up cities in Third World countries all over the world and we can't set up temporary facilities here."
Across the aisle the criticism of the president was harsher. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) criticized both Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the latter for “making stuff up.” He offered a hard solution to the problem: “The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult. But they're creating a crisis at this time that is actually going to harm these children,” Labrador said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Labrador argues Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum, that allows prosecutors to grant temporary residence (i.e., not proceed with deportation) to undocumented migrants who arrived in the United States when they were less than 16 years of age. Labrador says human traffickers use DACA to convince young people to attempt a border crossing.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also placed blame for the crisis on the administration, which he says ignored multiple warnings from his office as far back as 2010 about a possible influx of Central American migrants at the Texas-Mexico border.
"I have to believe when you do not respond in any way, you are either inept or have some ulterior motive that you are functioning from," Perry said on ABC’s “This Week,” echoing comments he made on Fox News in June where he entertained the idea that the administration was “in on this somehow.”
Obama will visit Texas this week but will not visit the U.S.-Mexican border. Press secretary Josh Earnest Thursday accused those who want him to go the border of “playing politics [rather than] actually trying to address some of these challenges.”
Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) toured the border Thursday and said Obama needs to end DACA and expedite deportations. Earnest said repealing DACA is “not going to happen.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimate agents will apprehend 70,000 unaccompanied children at the border this year, 52,000 from Central America.