Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas
In a move that has angered lawmakers and sheriffs, President Bush refused to meet with border law enforcement officials in Texas for a second time, prompting some Republican congress members to schedule hearings.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a member of the House subcommittee on international terrorism and nonproliferation, said the administration has shown a seeming lack of concern for border security, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
Poe has pushed for the hearings in San Diego and Laredo, Texas, early next month, hoping they will expose the border situation to the public and force action by the administration.
The congressman said that in his two trips to the border this year he witnessed long, barren stretches with no security and numerous illegals crossing into the U.S.
“The next terrorist is not going to come in through screening at Kennedy airport,” Poe told the Sun. “We already have information that people from the Middle East have come through the border from Mexico. They assimilate in Mexico learning to speak Spanish and adopt customs and then they cross the border into the United States.”
Poe said a group that includes all 26 border county sheriffs from California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas – the Southwestern Sheriffs’ Border Coalition – wanted to speak to the president on the increasingly dangerous situation along the border.
“The president is the busiest man in the world but he needs to take the time to talk to the border sheriffs and learn what’s happening in the real world from them,” Poe said. “We can’t understand why he refuses to meet with them.”
The first rejection from the president came in May when the entire Republican House contingent from Texas went to the nation’s capital to meet with the president on border security. In place of the president, however, the White House sent former presidential spokesman Scott McClellan.
A letter issued Monday by the White House illustrates how out of touch the administration is with the American people, Poe contends.
Signed by La Rhonda M. Houston, deputy director of the Office of Appointments and Scheduling, the letter said:
“The president would appreciate the opportunity to visit with border sheriffs. Regrettably, it will not be possible for us to arrange such a meeting. I know that you understand with the tremendous demands of the president’s time, he must often miss special opportunities, as is the case this time.”
Sheriff’s coalition spokesman Rick Glancey said his members are angry and disappointed.
“It’s a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women on the front lines of rural America who every day engage in border security issues,” Glancey told the San Bernardino paper. “He missed the opportunity to take off his White House cowboy boots and put some real cowboy boots on, and walk in our shoes for a few minutes.”
White House spokesman David Almacy insisted President Bush “is committed to ensuring that our nation’s borders are secure.”
“This month, 6,000 National Guard members were deployed to assist the Border Patrol and other inter-agency partners,” he said. “The president has also increased federal funding that will give state and local authorities the specialized training needed to help federal officers apprehend and detain illegal immigrants.”
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