BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Republicans are challenging the president’s characterization of the surge in young immigrants from Central America across the southern border as an unforeseen crisis, accusing his administration of contributing to the influx and demanding that he deploy National Guard troops and other resources to secure the border.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday called the flood of unaccompanied minors across the U.S.-Mexico border a “failure of diplomacy.”
“I’ve known about this for two years. The president has known about this,” Perry said during a briefing in Washington.
Since October, 47,000 children have been caught crossing the southern border alone, a more than 90 percent increase from last year, federal officials said. The number of unaccompanied children caught could reach 90,000 this year, with many crossing here in the Rio Grande Valley.
President Barack Obama has called the situation a humanitarian crisis and ordered federal agencies to coordinate a response.
On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Central American officials in Guatemala to try to stem the flow of migrants north, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is expected to visit Brownsville.
Critics say that’s not enough.
Perry and other Texas officials this week authorized an increase in border security by the state’s Department of Public Safety. The department will use existing resources, plus $1.3 million extra per week, to increase staffing and overtime along the border. It does not plan to erect any new checkpoints, department spokesman Tom Vinger said.
Critics note that young migrants are heading north not just to flee deteriorating economic and security conditions in Central America, but also lured by rumors that they will be granted permisos, permission to stay legally.
They say these rumors originated with Obama’s executive order creating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allowed children who had immigrated illegally to delay deportation.
“We are essentially incentivizing the flow of this population by not returning the unaccompanied juveniles to their countries of origins quickly. Indeed, once they arrive in the United States, we try to find sponsors for them in this country, and they effectively stay here permanently,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said on the House floor this week.
Cole is also upset that, with shelter space in Texas scarce, migrant children are being flown to a temporary shelter opened last month at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill.
Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Cornyn, R-Texas, also blamed Obama’s policies for contributing to the border crisis and called on him to swiftly curtail it.