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Perry to Obama on the border: 'Be a leader, make a difference'

American-Statesman Staff-

Gov. Rick Perry said Sunday that instead of seeking $3.7 billion in new spending to deal with the surge of Central American children crossing the Mexican border into Texas, President Barack Obama should immediately deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande to send a message that would dissuade others from making the same journey and would free the Border Patrol to do its job.

“Pick up the phone, be a leader, make a difference,” Perry said on “Fox News Sunday.”

On “Meet the Press,” Perry said the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the border could have been avoided if the Obama administration had heeded his warnings about the developing new influx back in May 2012.

“I gave the President a head’s up on what was happening with these unaccompanied children, these alien children who were coming in on the tops of trains,” Perry told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer. “And we laid out exactly what we felt was going to happen if we didn’t address that, and now we’re seeing that become reality with literally tens of thousands of these young children, making this long, arduous, very dangerous trip, being separated from their parents, and it could have been stopped years ago, had the administration listened, had the administration been focused on the border with Texas.”

“I just don’t think there’s the interest,’” Perry said, noting the president’s decision not to visit the border during his trip to Texas last week.. “It’s just time after time, you see a response from this administration that says, `You know what? We’re really not that interested in the southern border of the United States.’”

Also appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the Austin Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said of Obama’s spending request, “we’re not going to write a blank check for $4 billion.”

“It’s going to be a more targeted approach, probably through the end of the fiscal year … rather than a two-year appropriation,” McCaul said. He said that only “four percent of the president’s supplemental budget deals with border security. We think more should be allocated towards that.”

McCaul also said, “I’m not in favor of building large warehouses in the United States to warehouse these kids” — who have a right, under existing federal law, to a court hearing before being returned home — while their cases are adjudicated.

“I think if we’re going to build facilities, perhaps we should think about doing that in the countries of origin in Central America, where they can better deal with these children,” he said.

Perry, McCaul and others — including Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor — had urged the president to visit the border during his two-day trip to Dallas and Austin, so that he could see the situation for himself.

“I was down there on the border, unlike the president, I saw the children,” McCaul told Fox host Brit Hume. “It’s very heart-wrenching as a father to see that — mothers with their babies. I also saw some 17-year-olds who looked more like a threat coming into the United States.”

Perry met with the president on Wednesday in Dallas. On Thursday, while the president was in Austin for Demoratic fundraisers and a speech at the Paramount Theater, Perry was back on the border, inspecting the scene with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who tweeted a photo of the two of them on a gunboat on the Rio Grande.

At a meeting with supporters in Austin Saturday, Davis, asked about that image, said, “I think there is exploitation going on on the issue and I think we need to take a deep breath and depoliticize it and work together as Republicans and Democrats, state and federal and local, and do what’s best for the human crisis that has presented itself to us.”

Davis, who has called on Perry to call a special session of the Legislature to contend with the situation, said she supports Obama’s new spending package.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, who also supports the president’s spending recommendation, will be visiting the border Monday through Wednesday. Her campaign also launched a bilingual on-line ad campaign, timed to Sunday’s World Cup final, praising Texas Department of Public Safety pilots “who are making sure that children, who are fleeing for their lives, don’t drown in the river,” and saying the federal government needs to do more.

“But,” Van de Putte says in the ad, “shame on those who would use this tragedy to instill fear, intolerance and hate for all immigrants. That’s not the Texas way. That’s not who we are.”

On “Meet the Press,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, a leading Democratic voice on immigration, followed Perry and said “Governor Perry’s just wrong … He kept repeating “the border, the border, the border.’”

But, Gutierrez said, “the children come … fleeing violence and torture, murder and rape. And so, they’re going to continue to come as long as those conditions exist and we don’t fix our broken immigration system.”

Gutierrez said that illegal immigration was down, and deportations up, under President Obama.

“The border is secure,” said Gutierrez. “The fact is, the children are handing themselves over to the Border Patrol Agents,” and that under existing law, “we must put the children’s interests first, which is what President Barack Obama is doing.”

“I’m happy he didn’t demonize the children,” said Gutierrez of Perry. “But there is a demonization that goes on.”

For example, Gutierrez said, “Louie Gohmert from Texas hasn’t ever seen an immigrant that he hasn’t thought was bringing disease to this country.”

Gutierrez did agree that Obama should have visited the border while in Texas.

“Absolutely. I think the President should have gone down there, stated what the law is,” he said.

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