WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of children streaming from chaotic Central American nations to the US border have overwhelmed the government’s ability to respond, senior Obama administration officials testified Wednesday as they urged senators to agree to the president’s emergency spending request for the crisis.
But as President Obama traveled to Texas, Republican opposition hardened to his $3.7 billion request, leaving any solution unclear. At the same time, the political pressures on the president appeared to grow from all sides, as Republicans denounced him on the Senate floor, and even some Democrats began to join GOP demands for him to visit the US-Mexican border — calls the White House rejected.
Obama met with local leaders on the immigration situation — but in Dallas, not at the border. Sitting down with one of his harshest critics, Obama said he was open to all of Governor Rick Perry’s suggestions for addressing the wave of unaccompanied minors, urging Congress to approve his request for more funding so that those and other ideas can be put in place.
Obama said he was willing to consider dispatching National Guard troops to the border, as Perry suggested, but warned it would only be a temporary solution. He said if Perry and Republicans want the problem to be fixed in the longer term, they should press Congress to fund his request.
‘‘There’s nothing the governor indicated that he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to,’’ Obama said after the meeting.
Obama said Perry raised four areas of concern dealing with the number of border patrol agents, the positioning of those agents, the different policies for immigrants coming from Mexico versus Central America, and the functioning of the immigrant judicial system.
Obama said if Congress passes his emergency funding request, the government will have resources to take some of the steps Perry recommended. He said the problem is fixable if lawmakers are interested in solving it, but that if the preference is for politics, it won’t be solved.
In Washington, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has supported Obama’s stalled quest to remake the nation’s immigration laws, said he could not support the spending request.
‘‘I cannot vote for a provision which will then just perpetuate an unacceptable humanitarian crisis that’s taking place on our southern border,’’ McCain said on the Senate floor, where he was joined by fellow Arizonan Jeff Flake and Texas Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. They took turns blaming Obama’s policies for causing the border situation, contending that his efforts to relax some deportations have contributed to rumors circulating in Central America that once here, migrant children will be allowed to stay.
‘‘Amnesty is unfolding before our very eyes,’’ Cruz said.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner was noncommittal about bringing the spending measure to a vote.
‘‘If we don’t secure the border, nothing’s going to change,’’ Boehner told reporters. “And if you look at the president’s request, it’s all more about continuing to deal with the problem.”
Meanwhile, immigration advocacy groups attacked the spending request from the left, saying it was too focused on enforcement. A group of civil liberties organizations filed a lawsuit in Seattle against the Obama administration arguing that the federal government is failing to provide the minors with legal representation.
And even some Democrats said Obama would be well-advised to visit the border.
‘‘Going out there and talking to people who live this day in and day out — that’s the perspective that’s missing,’’ Representative Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, said.
Asked about Obama’s decision not to go to the border, White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that other administration officials have done so and have a detailed understanding of the situation.