July 6th, 2014
12:54 PM ET
9 years ago

Border-state Democrat: Obama 'one step behind' on immigration

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration is facing fresh criticism for its handling of the immigration crisis from two voices at the center of the debate.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Mayor Alan Long of Murrieta, California - the small town that rose up in protest after federal officials bused illegal immigrants to a facility there - both criticized the administration for failing to fix a broken system and address what they called a foreseeable problem.

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"With all due respect to the administration, they're one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago," Cuellar, a red-state Democrat, told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union." His district sits right beside the U.S.-Mexican border in southern Texas.

"This is a national problem, and the world showed up on our doorsteps. We didn't have a lot of answers early on, and there were some legitimate concerns, health concerns and humane concerns," Long told Crowley on CNN, adding, "Those were questions that we just didn't get any answers to."

Crowds of angry protesters, both pro- and anti-immigration, flooded Long's town last week. What started as a concern of local residents became the latest flashpoint in a national debate, according to Long, who emphasized that Murrieta is "a caring, compassionate community. I can't speak for the rest of the world that showed up at our doorsteps."

"Our plan this entire time was to make sure we provided the safety for everyone, protesters on both sides and anyone who comes through the city of Murrieta. And that plan still is in place," he said, asserting that it was the Border Patrol who decided to redirect the buses of illegal immigrants to a San Diego facility.

Earlier in the week, Long blamed the immigration crisis on "a failure to enforce federal law at the federal level."

But Cuellar was quick to point to problems south of the border as well.

Beyond poverty and violence, he said, drug cartels have organized human trafficking rings that make millions by charging around $5,000 per person to get across the border.

"It's a big-money situation," he argued. "The organizations are trying to flood the zones and come in." He estimated that traffickers have made $240 million on the 48,000 immigrants that have crossed the border illegally.

Even if the problems are down south, the solution is here at home, according to Cuellar.

"We're hoping that we can get that money, so we can provide more detention spaces, more flights," to return illegal immigrants to their country of origin, he said, referring to the $2 billion President Obama has requested from Congress.

It will also require legislation. Cuellar pointed to a "2008 human trafficking law that needs to be changed" because it "is an incentive that, if you bring a child over here or your child by themselves, you're going to be let go."

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 added protections for unaccompanied minors who entered into the U.S. illegally.

"The system that is in place right now lures these people into thinking they're coming to a better place," agreed Long. "We have to fix that."

Filed under: Immigration
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Tone

    This is getting ridiculous, and old, blame the President for everything even if you have a tooth ache. That seem to be the strategy even if you are a Dem, in order to get elected Blame President Obama for doing a great job because that's all he is doing a great job.

    July 7, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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