Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar criticized the administration for being ill-prepared for the current crisis at the border.
"Keep in mind, this is not a Mexican problem. It's a Central American problem," said Cuellar on CNN’s "State of the Union." "It's not the first time we've seen a surge and we should have been ready for this surge. The administration should have been ready … with all due respect to the administration they're one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago, they should have seen this a long time ago because we saw those numbers increasing."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border between the United States and Mexico, and Republicans placed the bulk of the blame on the administration.
"In May of 2012 we sent a letter, laid out what was happening with the unaccompanied minors that were showing up at the border, and we told [the administration], we said, ‘if you do not address this, here is what's going to happen,’ and we're seeing that become reality today. This is a failure of diplomacy. It is a failure of leadership," Gov. Rick Perry (R., Texas) said on ABC’s "This Week."
"When I have written a letter that is dated May of 2012, and I have yet to have a response from this administration, I will tell you they either are inept or don't care, and that is my position."
Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" that the administration was working to "stem the tide."
Johnson contended that the influx is primarily the result of conditions or "push factors," such as violence and poverty, "in the three Central American countries that they’re leaving from," a position consistently held by the administration.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R., Idaho) pushed back on the assertion.
"[Johnson] made up a lot of different things," he said on "Meet the Press." "If you look at what he said, he said the number one reason these kids are coming to the United States is violence in these Central American countries. The reality is the violence in these Central American countries has existed for a long time. The level of poverty has existed in these Central American countries over a long period of time, but it’s over the last few years you've seen an increase in the number of children coming to the United States."
Labrador agreed with Cuellar—and the Obama administration—that the 2008 trafficking law needs to be changed, but suggested the administration was not taking the situation seriously.
"Their number one priority is to actually make sure we do right by these children.
The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh, I know it sounds difficult, but they’re creating a crisis at this time that is actually going to harm these children."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) defended the administration while calling into question the attacks from Republican House Members who, like Labrador, opposed the Senate immigration bill.
"I am really getting fed up with some of the critics of this administration, particularly from House Republicans. They had the opportunity for one solid year to call the immigration reform bill and yet they refuse to, and now they're arguing we need more enforcement at the borders, a lot of other things. When are they going to accept their responsibility to govern, to call this bipartisan bill for consideration?"
Despite pressure, Johnson would not confirm if the majority of the children would be deported or remain in the United States.
Since October, 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the southern border, predominantly from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
President Barack Obama is slated to travel to Texas for a fundraiser this week, but currently does not plan to visit the border.