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Perry Meeting On Immigration Crisis Constructive, Obama Says


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good Morning. President Obama met yesterday with a man who once aspired to take his job. He met with Texas Governor, Rick Perry.

MONTAGNE: They talked about thousands of unaccompanied minors heading from Central America to the U.S. Many end up in Perry's state of Texas.

INSKEEP: After what's described as a respectful meeting, the Republican governor renewed his call for the president to secure the border.

MONTAGNE: The president said it's up to Congress to provide the funds. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It was a handshake heavy with history. Not so long ago, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, dreamed of unseating President Obama. And just last weekend, he blamed what he called a failure of leadership by the president, allowing tens of thousands of young Central Americans to enter the country illegally. Still, there was Governor Perry, waiting on the tarmac when Air Force One touched down at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Perry had insisted he wanted a substantive meeting with the president, not just a grip and grin at the bottom of the jetway. So Obama invited Perry to fly along on his helicopter. And after they landed, the two men kept talking. Obama said afterwards, it was a constructive conversation.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The bottom line is, actually, that there's nothing that the governor indicated he'd like to see that I have a philosophical objection to.

HORSLEY: But Obama says many of the steps Perry is asking for in response to the crush of young immigrants are already including in the emergency funding request he sent to Congress this week. That 3.7 billion dollar package includes money for expanded detention facilities and dozens of immigration judges to speed up deportations. The challenge, Obama says, is not knowing what to do about the border, but rather finding the money and the political will in Congress to do it.

OBAMA: Another way of putting it - and I said this directly to the governor - is are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem?

HORSLEY: That's not to say there aren't genuine differences between Perry and Obama in the way they want to approach this problem. Perry, for example, wants the president to deploy a thousand more National Guard troops to enhance security along the border. Obama notes there are already more people patrolling the border than ever before.

OBAMA: The issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials. The issue is that were apprehending them in large numbers.

HORSLEY: By speeding up deportations, especially for new arrivals, the administration hopes to create a less attractive magnet for Central Americans. Still, Obama says he'd be willing to consider Perry's request for more National Guard troops if that's what it takes to win congressional approval. Obama drew the line, though, at the suggestion from Perry and others to visit the border in person.

OBAMA: This isn't theater. This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving a problem.

HORSLEY: Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas was not impressed by the President's remarks. He issued a written statement saying, Texans don't need a lecture from a man who refuses to even see the crisis firsthand. While in Dallas, Obama also met with faith leaders and local officials who struggled with the crush of young Central Americans. Dallas County Judge, ClayJenkins who's offered to find housing for some 2000 young people, said it was a good meeting where people mostly set aside their partisan hats.

CLAY JENKINS: Well, for Texas politics, it was pretty tame, and it's not an issue that we need to politicize because if these were our children a thousand miles away from us, we would want people to get together and focus on the children.

HORSLEY: Jenkins conceded most of the discussion focused on short-term fixes. Obama thanked the participants for their efforts to help the young migrants but said it's also important to deal with the root causes that are sending them here.

OBAMA: While we intend to do the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation, and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay.

HORSLEY: The president's emergency spending request includes hundreds of millions of dollars aimed at addressing conditions in Central America. Obama says the best thing the U.S. can do is make sure children can live in their own countries safely. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Austin, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.