By Mike Lillis - 07/22/14 05:51 PM EDT
House Democrats are lining up in staunch opposition to the Republicans' push to send the National Guard to the southern border.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called on President Obama to use those troops to help personnel already on the ground. On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) deployed the Guard to his state’s border, and a GOP border working group is soon to release policy recommendations expected to include similar plans.
"The last thing we want to do is to put armed troops on the border," Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) told MSNBC Tuesday. "That is not the purpose of our military."
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) piled on, accusing Perry – who's eying another run at the White House in 2016 – of wasting taxpayer dollars to further his "grandiose political ambitions."
"It is a costly misuse of our highly skilled National Guard to demand its service as a mere referral agent for children seeking refuge from abuse," Doggett said in a statement. "Doing its job effectively, our Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes."
The Perry administration is defending his plan to send as many as 1,000 Guard troops to the border, saying their focus will be on the drug cartels and other criminal elements who are eluding capture because of the recent focus on the influx of youngsters.
"Our effort in Texas is not focused on the unaccompanied children," Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) said Tuesday. "That's a humanitarian problem which can be solved this afternoon, by either Congress getting off their duff and passing [legislation] or the administration saying, enough."
Democrats, though, contend the border is more secure than Perry and his congressional supporters are claiming. The Democrats say the resources would be better spent on increasing the number of immigration judges, lawyers, healthcare workers and other personnel who could expedite the processing of the new arrivals.
"It is not so much a security problem as it is people showing up and saying, 'I'm here. Take me in. Arrest me or take me into detention,'" Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md), the Democratic whip, said Tuesday. "That's not a security problem. That's a problem [of], 'OK, what do we do?'
"We are not going to ignore people who are … knocking on the door and saying, 'I'm hungry.'"
Sanchez also rejected the notion that the border is insecure.
"We have increased our border patrol. … We're apprehending people. They're not getting through," Sanchez said. "Now we need to figure out who they are. We need to figure out whether we send them back. We need to figure out whether they stay here because of civil strife in their own countries."
The debate over the National Guard strategy could soon come front-and-center to Capitol Hill, where a Republican border task force, led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), is scheduled Wednesday to unveil legislative recommendations for dealing with the border crisis.
The group has held its suggestions close to the vest, but Republican leaders have long-called for Obama to tap the National Guard to address the border crisis.
In a letter to Obama last month, Boehner said the Guard "is uniquely qualified to respond to such humanitarian crises."
"They are able to help deal with both the needs of these children and families as well as relieve the border patrol to focus on their primary duty of securing our border," Boehner wrote on June 20.
Not all Democrats are entirely opposed. Hoyer, for instance, left the door open for supporting such a strategy.
"I first want to see what they are going to be used for … before I answer that specifically," he said. "Because I am not sure."