White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday brushed aside questions about the optics of President Obama traveling to Texas to attend fundraisers without visiting the border to get a first-hand grasp of the immigration crisis.
“We're not worried about those optics ... and that's simply because the president is very aware of the situation that exists on the Southwest border,” Earnest told reporters, adding that senior administration officials, the Homeland Security secretary, the Health and Human Services secretary and other top officials have traveled to the Southwest border in recent weeks.
What those officials have seen — the influx of thousands of unattended children from Central America overwhelming border control facilities — is “troubling,” Earnest said, and the administration is taking several steps to set up detention facilities and ensure that those who are apprehended are treated in a humanitarian way.
Obama will travel to Austin, Texas, on Wednesday to headline fundraisers for House and Senate Democratic re-election efforts and give a speech on the economy.
Earnest went on to say that Republicans who share the president's concern about the spiraling border crisis should support his request for $2 billion to hire more border agents, judges and provide more facilities for those apprehended.
Obama also has signaled his intention to take executive action on immigration and called on Congress to change a law that bars U.S. authorities from returning children to their native countries if those countries are not contiguous to the United States.
More broadly, the president has said the border crisis demonstrates the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, which House Republicans have repeatedly blocked and have pushed for tougher border security enforcement first.
Many Republicans blame the border crisis on Obama's executive order allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 to remain in the country and to work legally and obtain driver's licenses and other legal documents.
Republicans pounced on Earnest's comments saying Obama isn't worried about the optics of his Texas trip. Republican National Committee spokesman Izzy Santa accused Obama of “politicizing the humanitarian and border crisis occurring on the border prioritizing money and politics when he has a chance to do his job.”
“But honestly, the president’s action is fitting; after all he did promise immigration reform within his first year in office and didn’t do anything,” Santa said in a statement.