Amid a growing humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, where a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America have attempted to cross into the country illegally, President Obama flies to Texas today.
Despite mounting political pressure, the president has no plans to visit the border – but he has agreed to a sit-down meeting with one of his most vocal critics: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Both Perry and the White House are framing the meeting, which will also include local elected officials and faith leaders, as their idea. But no matter who initiated the meeting, one thing’s sure — it’s going to be more than a tad awkward.
1. Perry Trashed Obama Last Weekend
On Sunday, Perry lambasted the president on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” suggesting Obama’s cavalier approach towards immigration reform may have been part of a coordinated effort to spur the influx of undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure, ” Perry told ABC’s Martha Raddatz. “That’s the reason there’s been this lack of effort, this lack of focus, this lack of resources.”
“The president has sent powerful messages time after time — by his policies, by nuances that it is OK to come to the United States and you can come across and you’ll be accepted in open arms. That is the real issue,” he said.
2. Perry Demanded An Obama Border Trip (Obama Refused)
Perry also insisted that Obama should visit the border during his Texas trip.
“If the president of the United States is really serious about securing that border, we can show him how to do that… If he doesn’t come to the border, it’s a real reflection of his lack of concern of what’s really going on there,” the governor said on Fox News Wednesday.
3. First Invitation From The White House (Status: Rejected)
The administration declined to visit the border but invited Perry to greet Obama on the tarmac in Austin.
The governor summarily rejected the invitation.
“I appreciate the offer to greet you at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, but a quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas,” Perry wrote.
4. Second Invitation From The White House (Status: Accepted!)
Following Perry’s high-profile snub, the White House tried to smooth things over with a proposal for a sit-down meeting hundreds of miles away from the border, in Dallas.
But in the White House’s invitation letter, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett subtly rebuked Perry for his characterization of the administration’s stance on illegal immigration.
“As you know, the Administration continues to address this urgent humanitarian situation with a whole-of-government response,” she wrote.
Perry agreed to the meeting.
5. The White House Trashed Perry
Though the White House said the president was “looking forward” to the meeting, it publicly admonished Perry for his characterization of Obama’s attitude on immigration.
“I don’t think that any fair appraisal of the president’s record when it comes to border security would allow [Gov. Perry's] criticism to withstand any scrutiny at all,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “The fact of the matter is, this president’s made a historic investment in border security.”
“The president is well aware of exactly what’s happening on the border, and what we’re focused on right now are not political statements that would be made with an appearance, but rather with specific, concrete action,” Earnest added.
Perry isn’t alone in his calls for the president to visit the border.
Even Democrats say they fear this may be Obama’s “Katrina moment.” (President Bush was blasted in 2005 for his response to the hurricane that devastated Louisiana’s coast. Critics were particularly outraged when, instead of visiting the site, the 43rd president surveyed the wreckage through the window in Air Force one.)
On Tuesday, Obama requested $3.7 billion to address the issue.