Senator Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, is standing firm on his statement that President Obama told him in a private meeting that the administration would only secure the border if comprehensive immigration reform legislation was part of border enforcement. Red State first reported Mr. Kyl spoke to a Phoenix tea party group last week saying:
“Ever since this administration started, we have been asking for, before Governor Napolitano and Eric Holder had their confirmation hearings, I met privately with both of them made the case for Operation Streamline as well as all the other things in the McCain-Kyl plan. They haven’t done it. Finally in exasperation, we passed a law that said they had to give us a report by last December 27 what it would take to implement Operation Streamline—still no report.
Why? I’ll tell you why. “I met with the president in the Oval Office, just the two of us. I kicked the rest of the people out.
Here’s what the president said, ‘The problem is, if we secure the border, then you all won’t have a reason to support comprehensive immigration reform.’ In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with comprehensive immigration reform.
I explained that, ‘you and I, Mr. President, have an obligation to secure the border. That’s an obligation. It also has potentially positive benefits. You don’t have to have comprehensive reform to secure the border, but you have to secure the border to get comprehensive reform.’ I said, ‘you would be surprised maybe you don’t think there wouldn’t be no incentive for comprehensive reform, but I’m not so sure that’s true. In any event, it doesn’t matter. We’re supposed to secure the border.’
But that’s why it’s being done. They frankly don’t want to do it. They want to get something in return for doing their duty.”
White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer denied Mr. Kyl’s assertion early Monday, saying in a statement “The president didn’t say that and Senator Kyl knows it.”
“There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before, but, as the President has made clear, truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system.”
Mr. Kyl pointed to Mr. Pfeiffer’s response as evidence that Mr. Obama did indeed say what Mr. Kyl originally noted last week in Arizona.
“Well you have to ask that spokesman why he said what he said. I understand, he then went on to explain their position, which is totally consistent with what I said,” said Senator Kyl. “Namely that ‘you got to have comprehensive immigration reform in order to secure the border.’ No you don’t.”
The Arizona Republican told reporters on Monday afternoon that his conversation with Mr. Obama was long, and he noted that the president appeared uninformed about the problems on the border before their meeting.
“Well he and I have a different approach to a lot of what has to be done, and I don’t think he was as familiar with the deficiencies in the effort at the border before our conversation, but what I said was totally and absolutely accurate.”
According to Mr. Kyl, he and Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, visited their state’s border last Saturday and spoke to the head of border patrol about the issues that need to be resolved including the need for 800 more border agents, more National Guard troops, more surveillance equipment, and additional fencing.
“And as he said repeatedly, ‘the people who cross the border illegally have to know that there are consequences to their actions,’” Senator Kyl said.