Jindal visits border

Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Louisiana leaders traveled to the Texas-Mexico border on Monday to get a closer look at the nation’s immigration crisis.

“In at least three locations, we saw where people were trying to make their way into Texas in an unimpeded manner,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said after an afternoon boat ride down the Rio Grande River with Texas law enforcement.

A family, presumably of undocumented immigrants, was trying to float across the river into Texas, Edmonson said; a group of mostly adults was walking freely into Texas; and another group was wading.

“It’s helped me get a clearer picture of what’s going on down there,” said state House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, a Lake Charles Republican who also went on the trip. “This is a Texas issue right now, but it’s going to be a country issue before long.”

More than 57,000 unaccompanied immigrant children — mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — have been caught crossing the United States border since October, according to U.S. immigration officials. President Barack Obama has described the border crisis as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” and violence in other countries has been cited as a major factor behind the rush across the border.

In addition to the boat tour, Jindal, Edmonson and Kleckley surveyed the border region by helicopter Monday and were briefed by the Texas Department of Public Safety on the state’s efforts.

“They have a 24/7 operation on the Rio Grande River,” Edmonson said.

Edmonson said the spike in unaccompanied minor immigrants could pose several questions for Louisiana.

“Of course, the concern for their well-being is there,” he said of the thousands of children who have been crossing the border alone.

But he’s also concerned about the impact that they could have here — on public safety and state resources.

“Are they fleeing in fear for their lives or are they fleeing law enforcement?” Edmonson said during a phone call with The Advocate. “It’s the unknown. When you don’t know those things, how can you prepare for them?”

Jindal, considered a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has been critical of Obama’s response to the immigration crisis, blaming the president for the conditions that led to the influx and a failure to secure the U.S. border.

“If the federal government would get serious about this, they could secure the border,” Jindal said upon his return to Baton Rouge late Monday.

A variety of methods — from technology to live agents — could be used to secure the border, he said, adding: “Every mile of that border is different, but there are techniques that work,” he said.

The son of immigrants who legally came to the U.S. from India in the 1970s, Jindal also has criticized the Obama administration for a lack of information provided to the state on 1,071 undocumented immigrant youths who are reportedly living with sponsors in Louisiana.

Jindal said the most humane thing to do would be to reunite children with their families in their home countries. “We need to prevent them from coming here in the first place,” he said.

Jindal is the latest in a string of high-profile politicians who have traveled to the Texas border in response to the immigration dilemma.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also a Republican, visited the border along with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck last month, and Republican Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann also made a trek to the border.

“I knew that the border crisis was serious, but nothing could have prepared me for just how bad this situation truly is,” Bachmann wrote in a column on the experience for Townhall.com. “What we saw was people processing, not border security.”

Obama has drawn some criticism because he did not visit the border on a recent Texas trip, which he said would have only been good for a “photo op.” Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, toured a Border Patrol holding facility in Texas in June.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.