The White House closed the door Thursday on President Obama visiting the Mexican border with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying the Republican governor is only interested in exploiting the immigration crisis for political purposes.
“The reason that some people are suggesting the president should go to the border in Texas is because they’d rather play politics than try to address some of these challenges,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Mr. Earnest said that if Mr. Perry were committed to solving the immigration problem, “he could pick up the phone and call” House Republican lawmakers who are blocking the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Asked how the administration could defend Mr. Obama’s refusal to view the immigration crisis personally, Mr. Earnest said “the president has a very good sense of what’s happening on the border.”
“The trip he’s taking to Texas is effectively for a different purpose,” he said.
Mr. Obama will hold Democratic fundraisers next week in Dallas and Austin. He’ll also hold an event with a middle-class American to empathize over economic struggles.
The White House said Mr. Obama has sent several top aides in recent weeks to view the situation first-hand.
“The president is well aware of that process and how it’s going,” Mr. Earnest said.
“He could probably be pretty useful — I hear he’s a pretty persuasive fellow,” Mr. Earnest said.
Mr. Perry, though, said Congress can’t even begin to talk about a broad legalization bill until the border is secure — something he said is more remote now than it has been in years.
“if we’re ever going to have a conversation about immigration reform — which my bet is you and I would probably like to see that happen — it’ll never happen until we secure the border,” the governor told a Democratic congressman during a field hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Mr. Perry said the border is less secure now than it’s been in recent memory, and said Mr. Obama could reverse that if he would speed up deportations of those crossing the border illegally.
“Those who come must be sent back to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that risking your life on the tops of those trains, and the way they are coming here, it’s not worth it,” he said.