GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Here performing eye surgeries on blind Guatemalans for several days in the rural town of Salama, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) strongly criticized President Obama’s immigration policy in a closed-door Wednesday meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina.
“I told him, frankly, that I didn’t think the problem was in Guatemala City but that the problem was in the White House in our country, and that the mess we’ve got at the border is frankly because of the White House’s policies,” Paul said in an interview.
The meeting, he explained, was primarily about the humanitarian mission for which Paul–an ophthalmologist before running for the U.S. Senate in 2010–volunteered his medical services.
“We met for 45 minutes or so, mostly about the humanitarian mission–we talked about the surgeries and the people we met on the trip up there and my son doing a water project for the local school,” Paul told Breitbart News.
But when the conversation with President Molina turned to immigration, Paul let it fly at President Obama over his planned executive amnesty. The tens of thousands of Central Americans streaming across the southern U.S. border has been caused by Obama providing “magnets” for them to come, he said.
“It comes from the president basically offering unilaterally without congressional approval beacons or magnets without securing the border,” Paul said. “He seems to be doing this again because he doesn’t have what it takes to get Congress to pass legislation. So it all starts, as many conservatives say, you can’t have immigration reform without first having a secure border. But I think what’s happened at the border is all squarely at the president’s lap. The problem and the solution aren’t in Guatemala. The problem and solution reside inside the White House.”
Paul also joined a call from Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote on the House-passed border crisis bill that would block the president’s planned efforts to continue or expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty. The House passed that bill, and a companion bill that would deal with asylum and funding issues for the border crisis, before breaking for August recess, but Reid’s Senate didn’t pass anything to deal with the border crisis.
“I’m supportive of the House bill and I think it will go a long way to fixing the problem,” Paul said. “But like everything else, nothing good has happened because Sen. Reid has decided that he’s not going to allow any votes on any bills this year because he’s protecting his members who are vulnerable in the election–he’s protecting them from any kind of votes. So I think there’s a very good chance the House bill could pass in the Senate, but it won’t ever pass if it doesn’t ever see the light of day. This is a problem with a number of issues–there’s been almost no votes on any bills this year because they’re [the Democrats are] frankly afraid of letting their members vote in public.”
Paul said the intention of the trip wasn’t political–he’s actually been conducting such humanitarian medical work since before he was a public figure–even though immigration did come up in the meeting with Molina.
“The bulk of the meeting was about the humanitarian trip and I didn’t intend this to be a political trip, but I’m happy to answer questions about what came up in the meeting,” Paul said. “I don’t think our crisis at the border has much to do with policy in Guatemala–it has to do, really, with policy coming out of our White House. The policy didn’t originate in Guatemala. It originates in our White House. We did talk mostly about the humanitarian mission, and my goal in coming here was to try to help people see. I leave here with a great deal of hope and a great deal of feeling good about the smiles on the faces of those who were able to see and hopefully work again.”