By Mike Lillis
The Obama administration has botched its response to the wave of migrants flooding the southern border, a Texas Democrat charged Sunday.
"We should have been ready for this surge — the administration should have been ready," Cuellar said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "With all respect to the administration, they're one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago … because we saw those numbers increasing."
In the month of May, law enforcement apprehended roughly 48,000 migrants along the Texas border alone, 9,700 of them were children unaccompanied by an adult, Cuellar said. The wave has overwhelmed law enforcement, courts, detention centers and healthcare agencies attempting to manage it.
Republicans have blamed Obama for the spike in numbers, arguing that his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary legal protection to some immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids, has encouraged the influx.
Cuellar disagreed, placing the blame largely on the shoulders of Central American drug lords, who are reportedly charging families thousands of dollars to bus their kids to the border under the false premise that they'll be eligible for the DACA program.
But Cuellar also acknowledged that current system does give parents an incentive to bring their kids to the border.
"There is an incentive that, if you bring your child over here, or you're a child by yourself, you're going to be let go. And that's exactly what's happening," Cuellar said. "Our immigration courts are so back-logged. There's not enough detention spaces. … This is the incentive we have to take away."
Responding to the crisis, Obama has asked Congress to provide $2 billion in emergency funding and vowed to shift more personnel to the border.
The president will travel to Texas next week, but he does not have plans to visit the border — a decision the White House defended on Thursday.
“The reason that some people are suggesting the president should go to border when he’s in Texas is because they’d rather play politics than actually trying to address some of these challenges,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
Cuellar on Sunday encouraged Obama to reconsider.
"It would be nice of him to come down to the border, but with all due respect, I think he's still one step behind," Cuellar said. "They knew this was happening a year ago, … and they're not reacting fast enough at this time."