Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a district along the stretch of the Texas border where the majority of the immigrants from Central America have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks, said that the Obama administration has been "a step behind" in responding to the crisis.
"They should have seen this coming," Cuellar said of the Obama administration on CNN's "State of the Union." Cuellar said that the Border Patrol stopped 48,000 immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in June, and that 9,700 unaccompanied minors were apprehended in one month in May.
Cuellar blamed the influx of immigrants on poverty in the three Central American countries but primarily on the human smugglers who he said have realized they can profit by bringing people from those regions across Mexico to the U.S.
"It’s a big money situation,” Cuellar said. He added that human smugglers know that under the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act “people are treated different” as immigrants in the U.S. if they arrive with children, meaning they cannot immediately be deported.
"That’s the law that we need to change right now,” Cuellar stated.
He later added that "there is an incentive that if you bring a child here” you’re going to be let go by the Border Patrol to enter the U.S.
"It’d be nice for him to come down to the border" for a visit, Cuellar said of President Obama, "but with all due respect, he’s one step behind. They knew this was coming a year ago."
The White House has sought changes to the 2008 law to expedite deportations of some aliens. Under the law, children from non-contiguous countries, who could not be returned without a plane flight, must be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. The president has sought changes to that law to allow the Border Patrol discretion to treat minor aliens from non-contiguous countries as they would minors from Mexico and Canada. Obama has also requested $2 billion for facilities for the families and minors straining immigration officials' resources and for immigration judges.