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Abbott, Cruz Blame White House for South Texas Immigration Surge

(Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz held a press conference Monday on the recent wave of illegal immigration in South Texas.

Both Abbott and Cruz slammed the Obama Administration for what they've described as lax immigration policies that they say have encouraged Central American migrants to travel north in hopes of a free pass into the U.S.

Their comments in San Antonio came after a tour of Lackland Air Force Base, where unaccompanied children immigrants are being housed.

The influx of children and single mothers has overwhelmed the Border Patrol and its detention facilities in South Texas.

"Failing to secure the border has been a direct cause of this humanitarian crisis," said Cruz, "and both unilaterally offering amnesty and offering the promise of future amnesty has been a direct cause of the humanitarian crisis."

Abbott said during the tour he and Cruz were told stories of children facing violence at the hand of smugglers as they traveled north, saying in some instances children faced "having their ears cut off, or having fingers cut off."

Abbott also claimed Mexican drug cartels are also directly profiting from human smuggling operations, and again blamed the federal government for failing to keep the border safe. He said that's the reason state leaders, led by Governor Rick Perry, have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to immediately begin a law enforcement surge in border counties.

"The State of Texas is going to put the boots on the ground, but we expect the federal government to foot the bill," Abbott said.

Abbott, Cruz and Perry have previously called on the federal government to pay for the cost of the DPS surge.

The details of that operation still aren't clear - the DPS isn't releasing information about which counties along the border will be affected by the surge - but department has said it won't be enforcing immigration laws, and that it will instead focus its efforts to "deter and disrupt drug and human trafficking, and other border-related crimes."

State Democrats blasted the Republicans' rhetoric, saying neither politicians are offering solutions to fix the problems at hand, and are instead using the crisis for political gains.

"We are facing an international humanitarian crisis and the answer is not more political grandstanding," State Senator Leticia Van de Putte said in a statement. "We need to listen to local communities, not political insiders."

The Texas Democratic Party released a statement insisting the immigration surge stems from poverty, violence and weak governments in Central American countries.

"These children are fleeing desperate circumstances, not seeking amnesty," Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.