DALLAS (AP) President Barack Obama, resisting calls to visit the U.S.-Mexico border, met Wednesday with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other officials to discuss the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America that has become a political liability for the president and a test of his administration's competence.
Obama and Perry, a Republican who may seek the White House in 2016, had a businesslike encounter at the steps of Air Force One before the private meeting.
The roundtable in Dallas is seen by the White House as a way to address the immigration issue while avoiding awkward optics at the border. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have arrived there in recent months, many fleeing violence in Central America, but also drawn by rumors that they can stay in the U.S. White House officials say most are unlikely to qualify for humanitarian relief and will be sent back to their home countries.
Obama arrived in Dallas early Wednesday evening. He bounded down the stairs and gave Perry a big wave. Perry didn't wave back, but the two shook hands and then quickly turned and walked toward Marine One, the helicopter that would take them to the round-table meeting. Obama put his hand on Perry's back for some of the walk.
Obama's decision to skip a border visit is likely to provide more fodder for the Republicans and the handful of Democrats who say the president hasn't responded quickly and forcefully enough to the mounting crisis.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, raised the prospect that Obama's failure to take a firsthand look at the border crisis could be akin to former President George W. Bush viewing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina from the air instead of on the ground.
"I'm sure that President Bush thought the same thing, that he could just look at everything from up in the sky, and then he owned it after a long time," Cuellar said on Fox News. "So I hope this doesn't become the Katrina moment for President Obama, saying that he doesn't need to come to the border. He should come down."
Perry, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, has been scathing in his criticism of Obama, saying the White House has failed to respond to his repeated warnings about a flood of minors at the border.
"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," Perry said Sunday.
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(Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
This is not a GOP or Dem problem, this is a challenge for all Americans. It’s time to #securetheborder.— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 9, 2014