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Obama to GOP: Do Something on Immigration

Aired July 10, 2014 - 18:28   ET


S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Wolf, President Obama spent another day in Texas, but instead of visiting any of the children who have come across the border, the man who decries political theater held the political event in a theater.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, meanwhile, of course, the Republicans are practices theater of the absurd on their own. The debate starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, the crisis at the border meets Washington gridlock.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He's been president for 5 1/2 years. When is he going to take responsibility for something?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're mad at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better. It doesn't make sense.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Paul Begala. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat, and Representative Bill Flores, a Texas Republican. Help the children or score political points?

Plus the "Outrage of the Day." Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


BEGALA: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, I am Paul Begala on the left.

CUPP: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two members of Congress.

President Obama was in Austin today just an hour away from some of the immigration shelters, and instead of visiting the displaced children, he was cutting into Republicans.


OBAMA: You hear some of them, going, "Sue him, impeach him." Really? Sometimes I feel like saying to these guys, I'm the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy. You know, it is lonely, me just doing stuff. I'd love it if the

Republicans did stuff, too.


CUPP: Well, clearly the president is very pleased with himself. But instead of patting himself on the back as a humanitarian crisis spirals out of control just hours away, it's time he finally got his hands dirty. The fact is, there is a gulf between Democrats and Republicans on immigration, and it's the president's job to bridge that gulf and find a way to get something done. But what fun is leading when you can just congratulate yourself on a job well done?

BEGALA: But he was having fun. He was using humor to skewer his political opponent, something that Ronald Reagan would have done.

CUPP: Is this a funny time?

BEGALA: I think it's always helpful. First off, we have to have the argument, but I love when a president uses humor. Keep going, Mr. President. Hit some more.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California and Republican Congressman Bill Flores of the great Lonestar State, my beloved Texas. Thank you both.

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: You're not biased.

BEGALA: If I may, Congressman Flores, let's begin with you. First, thank you.

REP. BILL FLORES (R), TEXAS: Good to be here.

BEGALA: It's always good to hear somebody who doesn't speak with an accent.

FLORES: That's good.

BEGALA: Our president has come to the Congress and asked y'all to fund 3.7 billion to try and address this crisis. Let me go through a few of the things, principally, from our own research what the bill would do.

It would increase funding for the prosecution of smugglers, these coyotes, these animals that are abusing these children. It would boost immigration courts to speed deportations. It would boost surveillance on the border, something that Republicans have been asking for, for a long time and, of course, spends money on the detention, transportation and care of these poor children and it spends money to advertise in Central America, and also to help Central Americans repatriate. Do you support that?

FLORES: I support those principles. I don't support the amount. Because one of the things it doesn't do, it doesn't prevent the problem from recurring in the future. It does some things to clean up the mess that he's made on the border with this humanitarian crisis. BEGALA: You don't think he's made that mess?


BEGALA: Really?

FLORES: Congress didn't do this. Karen didn't do it. I didn't do it. No Republican, no Democrat did this. He decided two years ago that he wasn't going to enforce the law with respect to illegal aliens here today. And then he has obviously not secured the border, or we wouldn't have 52,000 UAC's that have come across the border. So we need to do two things.

BEGALA: First of all, will the speaker bring this to a vote. First off, you all control the House.

FLORES: Not this bill. What we're going to do is bring a bill forward that does the following things. One is we'll clean up his mess. And the second thing is we'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

CUPP: Yes, well, it's actually 57,000 now is the latest figure of unaccompanied minors across the border. Congresswoman, I want to get you in here. Bringing the president back to this. Because yesterday he said, "I'm not doing a photo op." Let's put aside for the fact that this is one of the most canny and skilled photo-op presidents in history. We can put up some of his greatest hits, but that's fine. He's not interested in a photo op now.

But do you agree, it seems to me like he's exempting himself from the political process here? Do you agree with your Democratic congressman, Henry Cuellar, that the president has been aloof and detached on this? Would you like him to be more of a leader on the ground there?

BASS: I actually don't agree with my colleague and friend. I do think that he's been completely engaged.

You know, I absolutely believe that if the president went to the border today that there will be a ton of criticism that look at him, it's a photo op.

He has put a proposal together. Now we have to see what's going to happen within Congress, but there is a concrete proposal on the table.

And then, ironically, you know, the president is also criticized for the rise in deportations.

CUPP: Right, right.

BASS: So if you look at the increase of money that has been put on the border, I mean, it's increased in the last over ten years, 350 percent. And some of that increase has certainly been under the Obama presidency.

CUPP: Well, even Paul agrees that the president probably should have gone to the border. I mean, this is beyond politics.

BEGALA: I do, but also I think Congressman Flores -- let me just ask you. Which president has presided over more deportations than any other?

FLORES: Wolf, from what I understand, President Obama.


FLORES: OK. Let's keep going.

BEGALA: I'm testing your truth meter. Which president -- which president leads the Border Patrol at the greatest strength, the most number of people we've had in the history of the Border Patrol? Which president would that be?

FLORES: Well, it would be President Obama.

BEGALA: Bing, ten points.

FLORES: But the question is how effective.

BEGALA: So now you're going to attack the Border Patrol.

FLORES: No, I'm not.

BASS: Can I just say something? Because really, if we had border agents? And every few feet on the border, it still would not solve this particular problem, because you have young people coming to the border looking for the Border Patrol, saying, "Here I am." There were interviews with young people that said, "Oh, I was so happy when I saw the Border Patrol," because they feel like they're going to be rescued.

So we have to go to Central America to address this problem. And I'm not saying that it's our complete responsibility, but to get at the root causes, we know that this is not just about people coming across the border.

CUPP: And let me -- let me just -- let me just ask both of you. I think Republicans, when it comes to immigration within this crisis, just in general, Republicans have unreasonable expectations.

I also think Democrats have unreasonable expectations. Are you willing, Congresswoman, to lower your expectations a little, maybe meet Republicans halfway to get something done on immigration, say legal status, instead of a pathway to citizenship?

BASS: Well, first of all, I am always willing to meet my Republican colleagues. Bill and I have great relationships. We've served on the budget committee together. So I believe that we can do that.

But I really do -- what I don't agree with is having a permanent second-class citizen -- or second-class person in our country. And so to say that it can't ultimately be a pathway to citizenship, I have a problem with that, but the legislation that's proposed, it would take a person 10, 15 years to get there.

CUPP: But for now, would you agree to just legal status, just to get some kind of deal on the table?

BASS: I think it has to be a comprehensive solution. I would not agree to a deal that stops at legal status. I think it has to go to citizenship, but not tomorrow. Everybody go back of the line, pay whatever fines, learn English, all of those requirements that were there. That was a bipartisan bill.

BEGALA: The Senate bill does all those things. In fact, by the way, it borders the Border Patrol. It's already the highest level. Twice the level it was ten years ago. The Senate Bill, written by Democrats, doubles it again, and does the things that -- will you at least support bringing it up for a vote?


BEGALA: Because the White House believes if you put it up for an honest vote, there's a bipartisan majority of your colleagues who will pass this bill, but Speaker Boehner won't bring it up for vote. Apparently you don't want him to.

FLORES: Well, the issue is -- no, I don't. The issue...

BEGALA: Why not take a stand?

FLORES: The issue is -- this is all based on Washington typical pastime: throw money at it, and it will solve the problem. There's no measurable objectives in that bill so that you have to achieve certain thresholds before the other steps begin to take effect. That's not in there. We can't move forward with that.

There's also no assurances that the president will follow his own law. We've seen what he's done with his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. He's just changed it, whatever it is.

BASS: I have a solution for that. If we had a situation where he would follow the law, that's one of the ways he can fix the current crisis.

BEGALA: The crisis, in fact, because he is following the law that President Bush signed in and says he can't turn these kids back.

FLORES: That's part of it. Forty-three percent of the kids coming across are coming across with adults. I mean, he's not turning them back.

CUPP: Congresswoman, real quick?

BASS: So I have a solution for that. One proposal was to pass the bill out of the Senate, but to make it go into effect after the president leaves office. So if we -- I believe I can trust the president, but if that's the notion, then how about putting it on without... FLORES: That may be one solution, but I think what we're going

to have to is we're going to have to -- first of all, the American people don't like comprehensive solutions. When I bring this -- bill up in my town halls, they don't like the fact that it was all baked together in one mega bill.

But as I go through it, break it down into pieces, like border security, like visa tracking and enforcement, a better legalized visa system, deal with better enforcement what to do when the illegals are here, and what to do with the dreamers that are here, and do it in six discrete pieces, we find a solution that works. And I think that may be the way to do it.

All we need -- all we need is a House speaker who will put it up for a vote.

BEGALA: Quick thank you. But first, if an idea were to cross Texas Governor Rick Perry's mind, it would have to bring a canteen, and yet that Texas governor claims he's got one under that head of salon-quality hair. Next I will ask Congressman Flores about Rick Perry's big idea.

BASS: Ask him about his hair?

BEGALA: But first, today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz" is this. Just how long is the Texas border with Mexico? Seven hundred forty-nine miles, 946 miles or 1,241 miles. We'll have the answer in miles, not that communist kilometers, when CROSSFIRE returns.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Here's the answer to our CROSSFIRE quiz. The Texas border with Mexico, 1,241 miles long, and as Congressman Flores pointed out when we were at the break, two thirds of the entire U.S./Mexico border is in our beloved Texas.

FLORES: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: All right. Let's talk about your governor --



BEGALA: Rick Perry, he has been spreading a conspiracy theory, that he is -- I argued with Mr. Flores, if you meet Rick Perry, use small words, please?

CUPP: Oh, man!

BEGALA: Perry's theory is somehow that our president --

CUPP: Sounds personal.

BEGALA: That America's president is behind this humanitarian crisis at the border.

And today, this morning on "NEW DAY", CNN's Kate Bolduan called him on it.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you really honestly believe, as you said in the interview last month, that the administration might be in on this somehow? I mean, you're suggesting there's some kind of conspiracy here.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: No, what I'm suggesting is that this administration and their words and their actions or the lack thereof are part of the problem. I think you're putting the words of "conspiracy" in my mouth, which you did not say.

BOLDUAN: No, you actually did say the word "I hate to be conspiratorial", but I mean, "How do you move that many people from Central America."

PERRY: And I hate to be conspiratorial.



BEGALA: To quote the governor, oops. It is painful to see a belly flop on national television.

Texas Congressman Bill Flores is with us, and California Congresswoman Karen Bass. They are in the CROSSFIRE tonight.

OK. So, Congressman, I have been very rough on our president for not going there. I think that critics largely on your partner have been right. He should go there and see for himself.

Can you be equally candid about your governor? These conspiracy theories are nutty. He even suggested that somehow Syrian terrorists are coming across that border. Please tell me that you don't subscribe to that kind of, really kind of gotcha --

FLORES: I don't subscribe to the conspiracy theory, and I didn't hear the language. I don't know what he said.

I do know that some of the things that Governor Perry said were exactly on point. Number one is, send the National Guard.

Now, Governor Perry can call up the National Guard, but the federal government provides the money. And so, we need to have the capacity --

BEGALA: Why doesn't he deploy the guard? He's -- who's the commander in chief for the National Guard, just for the folks --

FLORES: It's Governor Perry.

BEGALA: Why doesn't he call them out?

FLORES: Well, we're already spending 1.3 million to do the federal government's job because --

BEGALA: There's never been an occasion in American history, modern history at least, when the governor has called out the National Guard and not been reimbursed by Washington. The feds paid it. Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, she had a border crisis, she didn't whine about W, President Bush. She called out the guard and the feds reimbursed her, as they should.

I think if Perry calls them out, I know --

FLORES: The second thing that Governor Perry said is that the reason we have this is because the president does not enforce the laws on the book. For instance, you can go back to the deferred action memo that he wrote on June of 2012. He basically sent a signal to Latin America, come north and we'll leave you alone. We'll just -- we'll welcome with open arms and we'll find a place where you live.

CUTTER: Well, Congresswoman, let me cut Governor Perry and his magnificent hair, a little slack, because I can understand his frustration. I have a letter that he sent to the president in 2012, talking about, as your administration is fully aware, there's a surge of unaccompanied illegal minors entering the United States asking for help. He was ignored. Doesn't he have a legitimate gripe, a legitimate frustration here with the administration?

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: You know actually what I believe the president suggested is that he talked to his colleagues from Texas -- no offense, Representative Flores -- to do something.

FLORES: I'm not offended.

BASS: Well, good.

To do something, because maybe seriously, if you want money for the National Guard, maybe you can put under the president's proposal that he's put forward, that , and in fact it certainly calls for a major increase to border enforcement. But I go back to my original point a few minutes ago. I just don't thinking that is going to be the solution, because you have the young people coming, looking for the Border Patrol --

CUPP: Right.

BASS: -- looking for the National Guard. So, how does that prevent anything? That just doesn't seem to be the solution. We have to work with the Central American government.

CUPP: Yes.

FLORES: Let me say this, the president did ask the Texas delegation for a solution, and he's going to get a solution from the Texas delegation, as well as hopefully all the House Republicans and hopefully some of the House Democrats. BEGALA: Has Governor Perry called you the way the president

asked you to?

FLORES: No, he has not called me. But I'm sure he's called some.

BEGALA: Isn't that a lack of leadership? He's called FOX News. He's called every with a camera. He's total media accessibility, which we appreciate. Why hasn't he done his job and called you?

FLORES: The challenge is 38 of us to call. He's probably started --

BEGALA: That's not a lot of numbers for a guy with a tiny brain.

FLORES: Come on, that hurts.

BASS: He's cleaning up his image. He's auditioning for --


CUPP: Enough. Enough beating up on Governor Perry.

FLORES: Here's what the solution is going to have, though. We're going to fix the president's mess. We're going to give him the money so that we can start to process these UACs and reunite them with their families, then we're going to make sure the mess doesn't recur. We're going to insist on diplomatic efforts. We're going to change the 2008 trafficking law.

BEGALA: Will you help these Central American countries deal with the narco terrorists that are taking over some of their villages?

FLORES: We'll give them help to deal with that.


BASS: We can stop using the drugs.

FLORES: It is not.

BEGALA: By the way, wait, Congresswoman, say that again?

BASS: I said we can stop using the drugs. You know, where are the drugs coming? The drugs are coming to us. We are part of the problem. So, it is our responsibility to work with those Central American governments to solve the problem.

BEGALA: God bless you. Stop the demand side, you're exactly right.

CUPP: Let me make a shift for just a second. One of my boss, Glenn Beck, who also lives in Texas now, surprised a lot of people by coming out this week and saying that conservatives need to be more compassionate on this issue. Take a listen.


GLENN BECK, THEBLAZE TV: The best way to secured or borders and make America a safe place is to make it accessible to all those fleeing poverty and oppression, and violence, anybody who's in search for a better life.


CUPP: Now, Glenn is doing some fundraising in Texas to get supplies to these kids. Do you think the president should reach out to people like Glenn Beck instead of grandstanding and scolding Republicans?

BASS: Well, I don't know about Glenn Beck. Is he selling gold? Anyway --

CUPP: No, he's raising money to get supplies to these kids.

BASS: Yes, and you know what? I think that's absolutely legitimate.

I have to tell you, I do a lot of work in the child welfare system. I'm worried about some of these children. You know that some of these children are winding up in our foster care system. And I do think that we really need to look at this from a compassionate point of view.

So, although I don't agree with Glenn Beck about most things, I certainly do with that. We need to come from a compassionate point of view. The idea of a 5, 6, 7-year-old child making their way across the border was really a tragedy.

CUPP: Well, he's getting some flak from conservatives for this.

FLORES: Glenn Beck? Well, yes, I don't know that we need to be the world's orphanage by any stretch of the imagination. I think what we need to do is to have an immigration system where legal immigration is easier.

CUPP: Right.

FLORES: And so, that we don't have --

CUPP: Incentivize legal --

FLORES: Exactly. If we build the legal immigration system better, then they come here and we'll have a whole lot less illegal immigration.

CUPP: Right.

BASS: You know what? The one thing that we often forget is that 40 percent of the people who were here illegally didn't cross the border.

FLORES: That's exactly right. BASS: They came over here and overstayed their visas. So,


FLORES: That's the second part.

CUPP: All right. Well, stay here, we want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Should the president deploy additional National Guard troops to the border? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have your answer after the break.

We also have the outrage of the day and I'm outraged and disappointed by J. Crew, one of my favorite clothing stores.


CUPP: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE now.

It's time for the outrage of the day.

Famed J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons is known as a marketing and branding genius who dresses America's most fashion forward women including Michelle Obama. She even made an appearance on the ultra hip HBO series "Girls" last season. But she should have talked to her real woman friend Lena Dunham and the first lady of healthy kids before she allowed J. Crew to unveil a new size triple zero.


CUPP: Offering a triple zero sends a truly terrible message, especially for impressionable young girls who think that thin is in. I doubt that's a message Michelle or Lena support, and so, J. Crew should neither.

Paul, what do you think?

BEGALA: Good for you.

As the father of four teenaged boys, I can tell you this, girls, guys want a real woman. They don't want a triple zero. They want a real woman. So, I'm with you on this.

CUPP: You know, J. Crew says they are responding to demand among mostly Asian customers, but those sizes are offered online as well.

And what do you guys think? I mean --

BASS: I think it's very frightening, especially to a teenaged girl. Those are things that contribute to eating disorders and makes teenagers who already feel insecure feel extra insecure.

CUPP: Yes, and just doesn't it have an ick factor?

FLORES: It does. I'm going to go with the pocketbook. I've got two granddaughters. They've never gone to J. Crew on Papa Gillie's (ph) dollar. That's for sure. BEGALA: Good for you.

BASS: Papa Gillie (ph), huh?

BEGALA: Let's check on our "Fireback" results. Here was the question again, should the president deploy additional National Guard troops to the border? Right now, 68 percent of you say yes, 32 percent say no.

Congressman Flores, it sounds like they like your idea.

FLORES: They lined up with me. That's right. And Texas delegation --


BEGALA: But the governor could do it today.

FLORES: He can. He's not assured a payment.

BEGALA: We're going to come up with some --


BASS: Maybe you call him.

FLORES: I got a cell number.

BASS: That's the solution.

CUPP: I think you both should call him.

BASS: But I want to say something. I know there are members of your caucus, there's Republicans that would like to see an immigration bill come forward. And I would really like to see that before the year is out.

I believe that Representative Diaz-Balart had wanted to put a bill forward. So, maybe that's something that could be put back on the table as we go back in and decide what we're going to do.

CUPP: But you can't do it during a crisis like this, I'm not sure what would be the impetus.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Congressman, we're going to have -- first, I want to thank you, Congressman Flores of Texas. Thank you for joining us.

Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, thank you so much.

The debate continues online at, as well as on the Facebook and the Twitters.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp. Join us next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.