Texas Gov. Rick Perry was all about cooperation at a congressional hearing concerning the recent influx of unaccompanied minors over the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday, but in a recent interview with ABC News, he placed blame on the Obama administration, saying, “I don’t believe [President Barack Obama] particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure.”
This was a reiteration of a conspiracy theory he shared with Fox News last month, when he said that to have so many people crossing the border without the federal government stopping it, “you either have an incredibly inept administration, or they’re in on this somehow.”
The increase in immigration of unaccompanied minors, which Perry and others agree is a humanitarian crisis, is large. In 2008, 8,143 minors were deported or turned away from the United States, but last year, it was only 1,669, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. CNN reports that authorities estimate 60,000 to 80,000 unaccompanied minors will cross the border this year. At Thursday’s hearing, Perry said that “the border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure today than at any time in the recent past.” He noted that “drug cartels and transnational gangs are already seeking to take advantage of the situation.”
Perry stood by his theory about the Obama administration’s involvement on Sunday in an interview on This Week, saying, “I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept, or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from.”
This is a change from his refusal to point fingers at Thursday’s hearing, which was held by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security in Texas. “I’m tired of pointing fingers and blaming people,” Perry said at the hearing. “I hope what we can do is come up with some solutions here.”
According to CNN, Perry “was given multiple opportunities” to blame the Obama administration for the recent increase in unaccompanied minors entering the country, especially as he and Committee Chairman Michael McCaul repeatedly discussed a 2012 letter Perry sent the administration about the issue; the Texas governor instead focused on solutions. And Perry welcomed the funding Obama announced last week, when the president said he would take executive action to fix the immigration system — funds for which, CNN reports, could exceed $2 billion.
At the hearing, Perry asked the federal government for an increase in the Texas National Guard units involved in border security operations and to put “an adequate number of Border Patrol agents on the ground permanently.” The governor also asked that the federal government reimburse Texas for the $500 million the state has spent on border security in the past 10 years.
Though Perry was critical of the federal government’s lack of action at the hearing, saying that the country has the resources to fix immigration issues, his comments were much more reserved than his remarks to ABC News and Fox News.
Of course, Perry is far from the only one finding fault in the Obama administration concerning immigration. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Congress “should have seen this a long time ago, because we saw those numbers increasing.”
Cuellar added: “They knew this was happening a year ago, last year. And … they’re not reacting fast enough at this time, in my personal opinion.”
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) spread the blame across the political aisle, saying on CBS News that Republicans “had the opportunity for one solid year to call the Immigration Reform Bill. And yet they refused to.” It’s been just over a year since the Senate passed a comprehensive senate reform bill, and Obama expressed his frustration with the Republican-led House’s lack of action on the issue when he announced his plan to take executive action on immigration last week.
“The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, is bad for our economy, is bad for our future,” Obama said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seconded this sentiment in response to Perry, saying: “I think the most effective way that Gov. Perry can help, if that’s what he wants to do, would be to pick up the phone and call the Republican members of the House of Representatives that represent the state of Texas and tell them to support the bipartisan proposal to reform our immigration system that passed through the Senate.”