Gov. Rick Perry said Sunday that instead of seeking $3.7 billion in new spending to deal with the surge of Central American children crossing the Mexican border into Texas, President Barack Obama should immediately deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande to dissuade others from making the same journey and free the Border Patrol to do its job.
“Pick up the phone, be a leader, make a difference,” Perry said on “Fox News Sunday.”
It was the same message that Perry delivered to Obama face-to-face in Dallas on Wednesday to a tepid response from the president, who said he would consider calling up the guard but that it would be better if the governor lobbied for funding to more comprehensively address the situation.
Fox host Brit Hume pressed Perry about what good it would do to add National Guard troops along the Rio Grande, when under current law, the Central American minors are protected from being returned home without a court hearing.
“If these children who have undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?” Hume asked.
“What we’re talking about is sending the message back now so we can staunch the bleeding,” Perry said.
“It’s the visual that I think is the most important,” Perry said, adding that the reinforcements would enable “the Border Patrol to get back to what they are supposed to do.”
The border was a prime topic on the Sunday news shows. Perry, who was on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday, was on both Fox and CBS’s “Face the Nation” this Sunday. On CBS, Perry said the Obama administration had ignored his warning in 2012 about the early signs of what is happening now in such large numbers.
Perry’s interpretation of the administration’s response: “You know what? We’re really not that interested in the southern border of the United States.”
Perry indicated on Fox that he won’t be lobbying for Obama’s spending plan. Appearing on the same show, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the Austin Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said House Republicans will come up with a shorter-term, more targeted approach.
“We’re not going to write a blank check for $4 billion,” McCaul said.
McCaul said that while he saw “heart wrenching” scenes of children at the border, “I also saw some 17-year-olds who looked more like a threat coming into the United States.”
Perry, McCaul and others — including state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor — had urged the president to visit the border during his two-day trip to Dallas and Austin, so that he could see the situation for himself.
Perry was on the Rio Grande on Thursday, even as Obama was in Austin. Fox host Sean Hannity tweeted a photo of Perry and himself on a gunboat patrolling the border.
“I think there is exploitation going on on the issue, and I think we need to take a deep breath and depoliticize it and work together as Republicans and Democrats, state and federal and local, and do what’s best for the human crisis that has presented itself to us,” said Davis after a meeting Saturday with volunteers in Austin.
Davis, who has called on Perry to call a special session of the Legislature, said she supports Obama’s new spending package, as does state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, who will be visiting the border Monday through Wednesday.
Davis’ campaign launched a bilingual online ad campaign, timed to Sunday’s World Cup final, in which she praises the work of state police pilots on the border, while saying, “shame on those who would use this tragedy to instill fear, intolerance and hate for all immigrants. That’s not the Texas way. That’s not who we are.”
On “Meet the Press,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, a leading Democratic voice on immigration, answered Perry. He said that illegal immigration was down, and deportations up, under President Obama.
“The border is secure,” Gutierrez said. “The fact is, the children are handing themselves over to the Border Patrol agents,” and that under existing law, “we must put the children’s interests first, which is what President Barack Obama is doing.”
On “Meet the Press,” U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said there is more give in the law that would permit a swifter repatriation of the border crossers, but U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said, “these folks need to be given a chance to go to court and argue their case.”
The San Antonio Democrat also said he believes the president will visit the border.
“I think you will see him go down there,” Castro said.