DALLAS – In the wake of a humanitarian crisis unfolding on the Southwest border, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Obama met Wednesday in a pair of meetings here and discussed border security, housing and other ways to deal with the flood of immigrants.
Perry and Obama first spoke one-on-one during a 15-minute flight aboard Marine One from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to Dallas Love Field, where they joined a dozen local leaders for a wider-ranging discussion on how to tackle the border problem.
Obama called the brief meeting with Perry "constructive," but there was no indication that the president or the governor strayed from their previous views.
In the larger meeting, Perry focused on securing the border, once again urging the president to deploy National Guard troops to beef up security there, said Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, one of the participants. Obama said it would be more costly to put the National Guard there than to solve the problem, Johnson said.
The meetings were held as unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, continue to pour over Texas' southern border with Mexico. More than 52,000 of the youth, mostly from Central America, have illegally crossed into the USA in the fiscal year that began in October — nearly four times the number two years ago.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between Obama and Perry, who has blasted the federal government for not doing enough to stem the flow of migrants, since the crisis erupted this summer.
Obama said afterward that Perry expressed concerns about the number of agents at the border, whether they are positioned to deter people entering rather than take them into custody, and how long it takes to process those who are apprehended and send home those who have no legal right to be in the United States.
Obama said, "There's nothing that the governor indicated he'd like to see that I have a philosophical objection to."
In a statement issued after their meeting, Perry said, "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. Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done."
Obama said he urged Perry to encourage members of the Texas congressional delegation to support his $3.7 billion request to Congress on Tuesday to pay for more judges and lawyers to speed up deportation hearings of undocumented families, provide better housing for the children while they're in custody and beef up security along the border. Federal officials have scrambled to open new facilities to house the families in places like Oklahoma and California.
Their arrival at the new facilities has sparked heated controversy across the USA. Last week, more than 100 protesters blocked three buses full of about 140 Central American migrants from entering a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, Calif. Other buses were rerouted to another facility.
Few leaders have been more critical of Obama during this crisis than Perry, who has blamed the president's policies for encouraging more youth to make the treacherous trek north. Perry has called on the White House to deploy National Guard troops to the border, get tougher on those caught illegally crossing and repay Texas around $500 million that it has spent on border security the past five years.
Republicans and some Democrats have criticized Obama for not making a trip to the border. He was asked about that in a brief session with reporters.
"I'm not interested in photo ops," he said. "I'm interested in solving the problem."
After Obama left for a fundraiser, Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn issued a statement saying, "Texans do not need a lecture from a man who refuses to even see the crisis firsthand. President Obama can fundraise and issue statements, Texans will work to solve the problem."