Arguing that a “quick handshake on the tarmac” isn’t enough time for a true dialogue, Gov. Rick Perry on Monday offered to rearrange his schedule if President Obama will discuss at length the continuing surge of undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president will be in Dallas on Wednesday for an event hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He will then travel to Austin for a Democratic National Committee event that evening. He will speak about the economy on Thursday morning, according to a White House statement.
“At any point while you are here, I am available to sit down privately so we can talk and you may directly gain my state's perspective on the effects of an unsecured border and what is necessary to make it secure,” Perry wrote the president in a letter Monday.
Perry’s invitation comes in the midst of sparring between his office and the White House over the influx of undocumented immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Perry has criticized the president for not stopping to see firsthand the crisis on the border.
A White House spokesman said last week that Perry’s concerns were “hard to take seriously.” Perry’s office said in response that instead of being concerned about the flood of immigrants, the president was using Texas as an “ATM.”
U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector have apprehended more than 37,000 unaccompanied minors since October. Perry has repeatedly blamed the Obama administration for what he says is a failure to secure the border. In his letter, he hinted that his office has been ignored since 2009.
“Since first calling the issue of border security to your attention in a 2009 letter requesting 1,000 National Guard troops to assist with securing our border, I have followed up with several further communications inviting you to tour the border and view this crisis firsthand,” he wrote.
During a U.S. House Homeland Security meeting in McAllen last week, Perry said that a 2012 letter he sent to the president about the rise in unaccompanied minors garnered no response. Perry also said that the children should be sent back to their home countries as quickly as possible to deter more would-be crossers from ilegally breaching the southern border.
The Obama administration has said it is doing what it can to help stem the tide. Last week, the president said he was instructing the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney General’s office to immediately redirect any available resources from the interior to the border. The administration also started a public awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of the trek to America from Central America, and reminding people that they woukd not be allowed to stay in the United States. More Border Patrol agents have also been sent to the area.
Meanwhile, Perry and the offices of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have authorized the Texas Department of Public Safety to spend an additional $1.3 million per week to ramp up law enforcement presence on the border. With the Border Patrol overwhelmed, state officials argue, federal agents could lose focus on deterring crime associated with transnational gangs and cartels.