Obama, GOP Basically Agree on Border Crisis, But Aren’t Fixing It

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Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The original purpose of President Obama's trip to Texas was to do some fund-raising and talk about the economy, but since 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S. border this year in a situation Obama recently dubbed an "urgent humanitarian crisis," there was no way he could leave the state without talking immigration. While he refused lawmakers' calls for a presidential tour of the border, saying, "I'm not interested in photo-ops," he did meet with Governor Rick Perry about the crisis. Then, the president publicly challenged Perry to help him convince Republicans to approve the $3.7 billion he's requested from Congress to deal with the situation at the border. "The problem here is not major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful," Obama said afterward. "The challenge is, is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done?"

Obama said he asked Perry, "Are folks more interested in politics, or are they more interested in solving the problem?" The answer actually came shortly before the press conference started. While Obama said there's "nothing that the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to," Perry painted their meeting in a much different light. "Five hundred miles south of here in the Rio Grande Valley there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding that has been created by bad public policy, in particular the failure to secure the border," Perry said in a statement. "Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done."

The president says that's precisely what why he requested emergency aid from Congress. The money would go toward caring for the children who are already here, increasing the number of border patrol agents, and adding more immigration judges to speeding up deportation proceedings. Congressional Republicans agree that the situation is untenable and want the federal government to beef up border security, but House Speaker John Boehner hasn't committed to bringing the bill to a vote. "If we don't secure the border, nothing's going to change," Boehner said. "And if you look at the president's request, it's all more about continuing to deal with the problem."

On Wednesday, congressional Republicans said that Congress shouldn't pass the emergency funding bill unless they also change the 2008 law that's contributing to the crisis. Under the law President George W. Bush signed, which was aimed at curbing human trafficking, children who are not from Mexico or Canada must remain in the United States and have their case heard in immigration court, rather than being deported immediately. Obama wants to change the law too, and is actually getting more pushback on the issue from Democrats, who say the law is needed to protect children fleeing violence and abuse.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Boehner said at a closed-door conference with House Republicans on Wednesday that he hopes they can address the border crisis before their five-week summer break. That means there's hope for a deal before August, but it seems unlikely that the emergency aid bill will pass through Congress quickly, if at all. While everyone wants to fix the problem, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for the solution that helps Obama out of a tricky political situation just months before the midterms.