House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) today defended President Obama’s decision against visiting the southern border to view the current immigration crisis firsthand, saying the commander in chief is “very seized of this issue.”
However, Hoyer also carefully said that a decision by Obama to visit the border “wouldn’t hurt.”
“You know, I think that’s — would send a signal of his concern, but he is very concerned. He’s indicated that going to the border would be — I don’t want to sound too cynical, photo-op,” Hoyer told reporters on the Hill.
Obama arrives in Austin on Thursday, where he plans to “highlight the actions his administration has taken – more than 40 since January – to benefit hardworking Americans,” according to senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.
“The president has been spending a lot of time and effort. Jeh Johnson, the secretary, has gone down there, vice president went down to Central America, and clearly this administration is very, very engaged, you know,” Hoyer said. “Nobody has to go to the border — I haven’t been to the border, but nobody has to go to the border to know that we have a lot of children presenting themselves at the border, presenting us with a humanitarian issue.”
The second-ranking Democrat in the House was asked whether Congress should revisit longer-term solutions to address the crisis, including a border fence.
“Well let’s say you added a fence just hypothetically, and you saw 500 children standing at the fence, and you saw them there 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 96 hours. There’s a fence there, they can’t go anywhere, they stay there. What do you do?” Hoyer replied.
“This is a humanitarian crisis, not a — these are children who are being used, or children who are fleeing from what they perceive to be danger. The issue is — most of these children, as I understand, are not sneaking across the border. Most of these children are presenting — they want to be taken into custody. And yes, you could build a fence so they can just stand at the fence, and they’re — one was a 4-year-old child.”
When asked if migrants would be coming in the first place if there was a fence, Hoyer responded, “Well, they may not, but clearly we have to indicate that they — they — we cannot give these children sanctuary except under extraordinary circumstances.”
“Obviously we have refugee status, and protective status for people, but at least a wholesale coming over the border children of either teens or less is not sustainable in the United States,” he added. “But whether the — whether the building a fence itself is the answer, we have fences along the border, as you know. Not every place, but most places, and people still come, and they come over, under, around the fences.”
“America’s a very attractive place to come to, and that causes us a problem, but we all agree, the border must be secure. We cannot have people coming in the United States who are not authorized to do so. That is a first principle of almost every advocate of comprehensive immigration reform.”