Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said he’s been contacted by the White House about his public criticism of President Obama for not visiting the border this week.
Cuellar, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, blasted Obama on multiple networks for visiting Texas for fundraising while eschewing a trip to see the crisis firsthand of thousands of Central American immigrants swarming the border.
“I think any leaders will be defined on how he or she will handle a crisis different, and this is certainly a humanitarian crisis. Listen, I’ve been able to go and talked to the young kids that have been coming across,” Cuellar told CNN, adding that his border district has been trying to be generous to the illegal immigrants but they’re a poor community with limited means. “We don’t have a lot of money but I can tell you the churches, and the nonprofits have been working so hard to provide humanitarian care and I think it’s — leaders should be able to see this firsthand.”
The congressman confirmed that the White House was not happy with his criticism, though he wouldn’t go into detail about who called.
“Well, let me put it this way, I thought we had a very constructive positive conversation. I’m still calling for the president to come down to the border. Apparently he didn’t do it on this visit but the door is open for him to go down there. My community leaders, my — you know, my churches and other folks have asked me, why did the president not come down to the border? That’s all I’m asking,” Cuellar said.
“I’m not asking for anything else, come down to the border and just see it for yourself. If it’s not important, then why is he not — why is he asking us for $3.7 billion of help? And I want to be supportive of the president on that funding.”
He added that the administration official who called was “smart” enough to not “yell at a member of Congress who sits on Appropriations.”
“But, again, I will say this that, again, I’m still saying what I’ve been saying, this is a humanitarian crisis. What is wrong by having the president go down there? He was only 242 miles from the border when he was in Austin. He was only 72 miles from Lackland Air Force Base where I’ve been at to see the young kids there,” Cuellar continued, adding it would have been a 15-minute diversion by air for Obama.
“We have now seen the smuggling organizations that probably make more than $240 million a month. Taking advantage of an incentive, saying that if you come in and then — you know, you’re put in HHS, and they’re taken to somewhere else, and you have to wait two years for a hearing, I don’t think that’s the right approach.”