Share This Page

Obama urged to visit U.S.-Mexico border, see immigration crisis

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is facing mounting calls from Republicans to take a firsthand look at the immigration emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting him on the spot concerning what he has called the “humanitarian crisis” of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children flooding in from Central America.

“If he doesn't come to the border, I think it's a real reflection of his lack of concern of what's really going on there,” declared Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016.

The White House said on Thursday that Obama has no plans to visit the border when he travels to Texas next week, primarily to raise funds for Democratic congressional candidates. A trip to the border could result in awkward optics for the president, who would be unlikely to meet with youngsters he's seeking to deport and would risk upsetting immigration advocates who oppose the deportations if he were to meet with Border Patrol agents or other law enforcement.

Administration officials say that Perry and other Republicans are merely trying to score political points rather than working to resolve a major problem. But the political concerns are not so easily dismissed for Obama.

The border crisis has put him in the difficult position of asking Congress for more money and authority to send the children back home at the same time he's seeking ways to allow millions of other people in the United States illegally to stay.

The White House also wants to keep the focus of the debate in this midterm election year on Republican lawmakers whom the president has accused of blocking progress on a comprehensive overhaul of America's immigration laws. Obama announced this week that, because of a lack of progress on Capitol Hill, he was moving forward to seek ways to adjust U.S. immigration policy without congressional approval.

Obama's options for that range from relatively modest changes in deportation procedures to broader moves that could shield millions of people in the United States illegally from deportation while giving them temporary authorization to work here.

Immigration advocates emerged from a meeting with Obama this week convinced that the president was at least considering the more aggressive approach.

“He's totally flipped from doing everything possible to give Republicans the space to get to ‘yes' to doing everything possible to cement the reputation of the GOP as anti-immigrant and to bolster the Democratic Party's image as the party that's for them,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a leading advocacy group.

The advocates are pushing Obama to provide work permits to the up to 9 million people who would have been eligible for citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate a year ago that stalled in the GOP-led House. Short of that, advocates want Obama to extend a “deferred action” program to all immigrants in the United States illegally who have children who are American citizens because they were born here. That program allows many young immigrants who arrived in the United States as children before June 15, 2007, to apply for work permits and two-year reprieves from deportation.

Those proposals stand in stark contrast to the Obama administration's response to the influx of unaccompanied minors showing up at the border. The president has asked Congress for $2 billion in emergency spending to hire more immigration judges and open more detention facilities. He's also seeking the flexibility to speed up the youths' deportations.

Republicans have sought to draw a link between the crisis and Obama's desire to use executive powers to change immigration laws. They point specifically to his 2012 deferred-action decision, saying it has left the impression in Central America that youngsters arriving in the United States alone would be allowed to stay.

“This is a disaster of President Barack Obama's own making,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.