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Americas

Obama in Texas to urge congressional action on child migrant crisis

© JEWEL SAMAD / AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-10

Barack Obama met with Texas Governor Rick Perry in Dallas on Wednesday to discuss the critical influx of unaccompanied children from Central America across the US border.

The president is seeking Republican support in Congress for his requested $3.7 billion in funds to address the problem.

Obama visited the southern state for the first time since the influx of child migrants began to overwhelm border resources. He discussed the issue with Perry, a rival and a sharp critic of the president, aboard his Marine One helicopter and in a group meeting with local officials that Obama called "constructive".

“Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem?” Obama said he asked Perry. “If they are interested in solving the problem,  then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved.”

In a brief news conference after the meeting, Obama rejected the suggestion from Perry – a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate – that he should personally visit the border region for a firsthand look.

“This isn’t theatre. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem,” he said.

Obama said he would consider deploying the National Guard to the border as Perry and other Republicans have requested.

Republicans wary of funding

Obama’s request for emergency funds on Tuesday was the most aggressive step yet by his administration to take care of the children who have illegally arrived from Central America while simultaneously accelerating their deportion process.

The money, however, must be approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans, who have pressed the White House to do more to tackle the crisis, gave the proposal a wary reception.

“The House is not going to just rubber-stamp what the administration wants to do,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who is a member of Speaker John Boehner’s border crisis task force.

Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney criticised the funding request and suggested foreign aid should be docked to pay for it.

“I think it’s a charade. I think the president has set it up to make it look as though the only reason he’s not enforcing the border is because he doesn’t have the money. And that’s not accurate,” Mulvaney said.

Obama said he emphasised to Perry that he was largely in agreement with the Republican’s suggestion that more border patrol agents be moved to the crisis zone. Perry quickly issued a statement after the talks saying he demanded that Obama dispatch 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.

“Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done,” Perry said.

Warning to parents

“The bottom line actually is there is nothing the governor indicated that he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to,” Obama said.

The greater challenge, he said, is whether Congress is prepared to approve his funding request.

Obama’s session with Perry came after a lengthy back-and-forth between the White House and the governor’s representatives over whether the meeting would take place at all.

The child migrant crisis has made the debate over immigration reform even more divisive.

Without government action, the administration projects that next year more than 150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 will flee to the United States from poverty and drug- and gang-related violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Some 57,000 have crossed the frontier since October.

“Parents need to know this is an incredibly dangerous situation, and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay,” Obama said on Wednesday.

“I’ve asked parents across Central America not to put their children in harm’s way in this fashion.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

Date created : 2014-07-10

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