Obama on border crisis: ‘This is not theater. I’m not interested in photo ops’

President Obama on Wednesday defended his decision not to visit the Texas border with Mexico during a two-day trip to the state, saying he's "not interested in photo ops."

"Nothing has taken place down there that I'm not intimately aware of. This is not theater," Obama said during a news conference in Dallas, after meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to discuss his administration's response to an influx of foreign children entering the state illegally.

Obama, who has been under pressure from Republicans and Democrats to view the border situation firsthand, said he has been well briefed by his Cabinet aides and called on Congress to quickly approve his $3.7 billion emergency funding request to help manage the crisis.

"If you ask people what we should be doing, they give suggestions that are already embodied in legislation I've sent to Congress," Obama said, putting the onus on lawmakers.

"The challenge is, is Congress prepared to act to put resources in place to get this done?" he said. "Another way of putting it is are people more interested in politics than solving problems? If they are interested in solving the problem, this can be solved. If they prefer politics, the problem won't get solved."

Perry has been one of the president's sharpest critics, having warned him in 2012 of the rising number of minors at the border. Obama called his meeting with Perry "constructive" and said he was open to many of the ideas the governor expressed for adding more border patrol officers and amending laws to more quickly deport Central American minors who enter the country illegally. But Obama repeatedly emphasized that it was up to Congress to give him the tools to more forcefully respond to the border crisis.

"The bottom line is there is nothing the governor indicated he would like to see that I have a philosophical objection to," Obama said, suggesting he would even be willing to consider sending in National Guard troops, something the White House had previously indicated was unnecessary.

"The only question at this point is why wouldn't the Texas delegation or other Republicans concerned about this put this on the fast track so I can sign it and we can get to work," Obama said. "I suggested to the governor that he has some influence on the Texas delegation."

Perry’s office said the governor reiterated his request that the president visit the border, asked him to dispatch 1,000 National Guard troops to help with the crisis and add Predator drones to fight human smuggling and drug trafficking.

“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,” Perry said in a statement. “Securing the border is attainable, and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done.”

Obama acknowledged much of the debate in Washington is subject to partisan politics.

"If I sponsor a bill declaring apple pie American, it might fall victim partisan politics," he said.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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