President Obama promised Wednesday that The United States would “do the right thing” to resolve the growing crisis triggered by the arrival of tens of thousands of women and children along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the president emphasized it was “unlikely” that those fleeing violence in Central America will be able to stay.Speaking from Dallas, Texas, Obama called on Congress to take action on legislation authorizing $3.7 billion in funding he has requested to deal with the crisis. “Congress has the capacity to work with all parties concerned to directly address this situation,” the president said. Obama argued that the best way to address the crisis “in the long run” would be for the Republican-controlled House to pass comprehensive immigration reform, like the bill passed last year by the Democratic-led Senate.
Obama also pushed back against critics who have questioned his decision to not visit the border region. “This isn’t theater, this is a problem,” the president said in response to a question about why he didn’t travel to the border on Wednesday. “I’m not interested in photo ops, I’m interested in solving a problem.”
“There’s nothing that is taking place down there that I’m not intimately aware of and briefed on,” Obama added, indicating that he has been regularly updated on the situation at the border and that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has visited the area repeatedly.
The president also met with Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry to discuss the issue on Wednesday afternoon. After Air Force One landed in Dallas, the two boarded Marine One and flew to nearby Love Field Airport where, NBC News reports, the two leaders met, one-on-one, behind closed doors for 15 minutes.
Gov. Perry has been highly critical in recent days of the White House’s response to the influx of undocumented women and children at the border, even suggesting this week that the Obama administration may be “in on this somehow.” Still, the president on Wednesday called his discussion with the Gov. Perry “constructive.”
“There’s nothing that the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to,” Obama said of Perry’s proposed solutions to deal with the growing crisis, though the president stressed that many of the problems on the border could be solved if Congress approved his request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding.
Shortly before the president spoke, Gov. Perry’s office released a statement highlighting the Texan’s request that the president visit the border to assess the situation firsthand. “Securing the border is attainable,” the statement read, “and the president needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done.”
Back in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner met with fellow members of Congress to discuss the crisis. The group released a statement before the president’s remarks, in which they said they were “extremely concerned” about the border crisis. The group called on the president to do more to stop parents and children from making “this horrific and perilous journey based on the hope that they will be able to stay in the United States.” The lawmakers also said they agreed with the president that the undocumented women and children must be returned home “in the most humane way possible.”
Obama has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle for not visiting the border during his trip to Texas, which included a stop at a fundraiser in North Dallas. Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday afternoon that it makes the president appear “aloof.”
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn was less polite. “Texans do not need a lecture from a man who refuses to even see the crisis firsthand,” he said in a statement Wednesday night. “President Obama can fundraise and issue statements. Texans will work to solve the problem.”