Republicans and Democrats alike are blaming President Obama for the escalating child migrant crisis along the southern border – with lawmakers of both parties faulting the administration for its failed policies.
In May, border patrol agents apprehended roughly 48,000 migrants along the Texas border alone, 9,700 of them children unaccompanied by an adult, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) said Sunday morning. The massive increase in migrants has overwhelmed law enforcement officers, courts, detention centers and health care agencies that are attempting to manage them.
Republicans have been quick to blame the president. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on ABC’s This Week, attributed the crisis to “a failure of diplomacy…a failure of leadership from the administration in Washington, D.C.”
But now Democrats blame the president as well. Cuellar, a Blue Dog Democrat, faulted the administration for being one “one step behind” in addressing the crisis.
“We should have been ready for this surge – the administration should have been ready,” Cuellar said on CNN’s State of the Union. “With all respect to the administration, they’re one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago … because we saw those numbers increasing.”
The public also seems to fault Obama for the overall border crisis. A recent IBD/TIPP poll found that a majority of Americans hold the president and his administration responsible.
Critics blame the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary legal protection to some undocumented immigrants brought here as children, for the influx. Still, Cuellar and others say the increase in minors crossing the border has more to do with Central American drug lords who reportedly charge families thousands of dollars to bus their kids to the border under false pretenses.
“It’s a big money situation,” Cuellar said, adding that smugglers are aware that under the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act – which was signed by President George W. Bush – immigrants in the U.S. who arrive with children cannot immediately be deported.
“There is an incentive that if you bring your child over here, or you’re a child by yourself, you’re going to be let go. And that’s exactly what’s happening,” Cuellar said. “Our immigration courts are so backlogged. There’s not enough detention spaces. … This is the incentive we have to take away.”
Other critics say Obama hasn’t done enough to secure adequate resources to deal with the crisis, despite Customs and Border Protection Chief Gil Kerlikowske’s insistence that there are enough Border Patrol agents to keep the U.S.-Mexico border secure.
“He is absolutely and totally wrong,” Gov. Perry said of Kerlikowske’s assurance, adding that the Texas border has half the patrol agents per mile that Arizona and California do.
Perry and other Republicans have accused the administration of allowing the influx of child immigrants to put political pressure on the GOP to pass immigration reform. “I have to believe when you do not respond in any way, you are either inept or have some ulterior motive,” Perry said on ABC’s This Week when asked about his earlier comments implying the Obama administration may have somehow helped migrants cross into the U.S.
But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson denied those claims. The administration is “taking steps to stop the flow of thousands of women and children from Central America,” Johnson said. He said on NBC’s Meet the Press that their “message to those who come here illegally: Our border is not open to illegal migration.”
He added that the administration is looking into executive actions the president can take without Congress to temper the crisis. “I believe we’re going to stem this tide,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, the president is expected to send a letter to Congress on Monday urging lawmakers to approve more than $2 billion in emergency funding to deal with the surge in unaccompanied children. Obama will also ask Congress to increase penalties for people who smuggle children across the border and profit from it.
Reuters reported that Obama will also seek greater authority for U.S. immigration officials to speed up the deportation of children caught crossing from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The president is traveling to Texas next week, but right now he is not scheduled to visit the border.
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