Border Dem: Obama visit would be ‘distraction’

The congressman representing the largest stretch of border with Mexico told President Obama not to visit the southern border while in Texas, which he does not plan to do. 

Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas), who represents a competitive district, said Obama's presence there would be a distraction. The congressman's office said his statement was not a defense of Obama's decision not to visit. 

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"The President's presence along the border would create an unneeded distraction by diverting law enforcement and other resources at a critical time," Rep. Gallego said in a statement Wednesday.

"We don't need photo ops, we need action,” he added. “The ball is in Congress' court to do this right."

Obama used a similar line in remarks later in the day. 

"This isn’t theater," Obama said. "This is a problem.  I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem."

Gallego represents Texas's 23rd district which houses 41 percent of the Texas-Mexico border — a huge 800-mile stretch of land from Eagle Pass to El Paso.

The lawmaker called for legislation to increase border resources, saying Congress had put rhetoric over policy in the past. A border security bill passed by the House Homeland Security Committee has been stalled for more than a year, he said. 

President Obama on Tuesday requested $3.7 billion in resources from Congress to help deal with the surge of child immigrants entering the country. 

Gallego parted ways with a number of fellow Texas Democrats, and Republicans, who have called for Obama to visit the border during his visit to the state Wednesday for a pair of fundraisers. 

Obama is slated to meet with Gov. Rick Perry (R) and other officials in Dallas to discuss the influx of more than 52,000 unaccompanied child immigrants captured this fiscal year illegally crossing the border. 

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who also represents a portion of the Texas-Mexico border, said Wednesday Obama can either visit the border or he can continue to "look aloof and detached."

Cuellar also criticized Obama for playing pool during a stop in Denver on Tuesday.

"When I saw that, it just really floored me because if he said he is too busy to go down to the border but you have time to dink a beer — the optics, I mean just the appearance means that he is not paying attention to this humanitarian crisis," Cuellar said on MSNBC.

A handful of other Texas Democrats have called on Obama to visit the border, including Reps. Ruben Hinojosa and Filemon Vela.

— clarified at 9:33 p.m. to reflect that Gallego was not defending Obama's decision.