Perry Tests Obama by Sending Troops to the Border
Policy + Politics

Perry Tests Obama by Sending Troops to the Border

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Talk about living in a parallel universe. 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose state is “ground zero” for illegal immigration, is exasperated at what he sees as Washington’s inaction. He’s deploying National Guard troops to the border and claims the Obama White House is still spewing “empty promises” to relieve the crush of undocumented children along the US-Mexico border.

A transcript of a call on Tuesday between the White House and other state governors tells a different story. It praises President Obama’s “comprehensive response” to addressing the needs of the children, cracking down on smuggling rings, and working diplomatically to slow the flow of illegals toward the border.

Related: Obama Attacked by Both Sides on Border Crisis           

And so it goes: Republicans, with Perry at the forefront, say the fire is still burning strong; the White House, with top Cabinet officials not the president taking the lead, insists the situation is improving and coming under control. 

The president wants a $3.7 billion border plan. Senate Democrats Tuesday unveiled a smaller, $2.7 billion plan. More in line with the GOP on price tag, yes, but the Senate Democratic plan does not change the 2008 law that many believe is contributing dramatically to the crisis. On the House side, Speaker John Boehner again complained the White House is not taking initiative to try to broker a deal.           

The result: Congressional gridlock. 

In January of 2013, "We strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants,” said Obama. “We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000."

That was then. Now, even many Democrats say the White House ignored warnings a year ago that the flow of undocumented children was growing – and about to turn from nuisance to crisis. 

Related: Data Shows Immigrants No Longer Majority of Hispanics in U.S. 

Into the fray come 1,000 Texas National Guard troops deployed by Governor Perry. They will support Operation Strong Safety, the state-led border surge Perry authorized in June. The operation will cost Texans over $17 million per month, according to The Los Angeles Times. 

"I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor," said Perry during a briefing in Austin on Monday. "The price of inaction is too high for Texas to pay." 

The White House was quick to call it a publicity stunt. 

“Governor Perry has referred repeatedly to his desire to make a symbolic statement to the people of Central America that the border is closed, and he thinks that the best way to do that is to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday. “It seems to me that a much more powerful symbol would be the bipartisan passage of legislation that would actually make a historic investment in border security and send an additional 20,000 personnel to the border.” 

Related: GOP’s Iffy Future as Hispanic Population Grows 

As the White House feuds with Perry and watches the messy congressional debate, the administration insists things are getting better – and insists the numbers prove it. The administration claims the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the Rio Grande has declined to 150 per day in the first few weeks of July, down from 355 per day in June. (That does not include illegal family crossings.) 

But one month’s numbers are unlikely to quiet the critics.           

The Border Patrol projected 60,000 crossing into the U.S. illegally in 2014. That number was recently revised to over 90,000 by the end of September. Already, some 57,000 unaccompanied children have illegally crossed the border in the last nine months, forcing the administration to ask governors around the country for help with temporary shelter, and again plunging the country into the parallel universe debate of immigration politics. 

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