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White House Hits Back Against Governor Perry On Border Crisis

WASHINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - The White House says the Obama administration will continue to "rigorously" enforce the law when it comes to addressing the flood of unaccompanied child immigrants at the southern border.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration is balancing the issues associated with the crisis, but will continue to enforce the law while dealing with the immigrants in a humane way.

Earnest was also asked about Texas Governor Rick Perry's criticism of the administration's handling of the border surge. Perry said President Barack Obama's immigration policies have contributed to the problem. Earlier this week, Perry tweeted an invitation to the President to tour the Texas border so he could see the crisis for himself and on Thursday he testified before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing in South Texas about border security issues.

"The truth is, it's hard to take seriously Governor Perry's concerns when everybody who's taken a look at this understands that if we wanted to send a clear signal about our seriousness of purpose when it comes to addressing some of the problems in our immigration system, that the easiest way to do that is to pass the common sense immigration reform proposal that already has passed through the Senate with bipartisan support," said Earnest.

"So, you know, I guess what I would observe is that the most effective way for us to address this problem, and I think the most effective way that Governor Perry can help, if he's – if that's what he says he wants to do, would be to pick up the phone and call the Republican members of the House of Representatives that represent the state of Texas and tell them to support the bipartisan proposal to reform our immigration system that passed through the Senate. That would have a tangible impact on so many of the problems that we see in our immigration system."

But Earnest said passing the immigration reform bill in the House that was approved by the Senate last year would be one way to address the problem. He said Governor Perry should call House representatives from Texas and encourage them to pass the measure.

"That is what we're up against right now. And that is why you've heard the president, other senior administration officials, articulate very clearly what the law is and the fact that the law will continue to be rigorously enforced. What we'll also do is we're going to also enforce that law in line with our values and in line with the responsibility that's also mandated by the law, to treat those who are apprehended in a humanitarian way. So, we're balancing a lot of different -- a lot of different imperatives, here. But, first and foremost, this administration is committed to enforcing the law, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended since October after entering the country illegally. Most of the children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and are fleeing violence and poverty in those countries.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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