Texas Gov. Rick Perry says that the Obama administration needs to get much tougher on the U.S.-Mexico border by, for starters, putting put more Border Patrol troops on the ground and drones in the air to secure it.
Perry, who made his comments in a speech to Hispanic ministers in San Antonio on Saturday morning, said that he recently visited a Border Patrol facility in Texas where he saw hundreds of mothers and children who had crossed the border illegally in the soaring surge of Central Americans who have been coming to the United States in recent years.
"I saw how our country's refusal to commit the resources necessary to secure our borders are directly impacting those children," said Perry, according to local reports.
The group Perry, who may run again for president in 2016, addressed was the Libre Initiative, a religious group courting Hispanic voters to conservative candidates.
Perry touched on the topic again in Iowa on Saturday night, in his fourth visit to the state eight months. His visit there seemed to signal a hope for a second chance to win over Republican voters who delivered him a stinging caucus loss when he ran for president two years ago.
Perry, 64, hasn't said if he plans to run again in 2016. But he's clearly considering it, and was meeting Saturday and Sunday with veterans and conservative activists in the northern Iowa communities of Algona and Clear Lake.
The crowd Saturday night responded enthusiastically to Perry's roughly 15-minute speech. Perry heaped praise on his fellow GOP governors, especially Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and forcefully criticized President Barack Obama's response to the recent flood of unaccompanied child immigrants that has overwhelmed authorities in Texas.
"We know how to secure the border. If the federal government will not do its duty then I will suggest to you that the state of Texas will," said Perry, as the crowd leapt to their feet in applause.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended since October, the Border Patrol says. Three-fourths of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and say they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty. By the time they have reached South Texas, they have survived a treacherous journey through drug-war-torn Mexico.
President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion in emergency spending to increase enforcement at the border, build more facilities to temporarily house the unaccompanied minors, and beef up legal aid. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said the government will entitle due process but will not guarantee a "welcome to this country with open arms."
Perry became Texas' governor in 2000 when then-Gov. George W. Bush became president. He has been elected to full four-year terms three times — becoming the longest-serving governor in Texas history — but is not seeking re-election next year.
Meanwhile, federal authorities are warning the public about fraud schemes aimed at exploiting relatives of unaccompanied children who've recently entered the United States.
San Antonio-based FBI officials say in a statement that perpetrators have demanded payments from family members, claiming the monetary payments will cover processing and travel expenses needed to allow the children to be reunited with their families.
Authorities say individuals involved in these schemes request payments ranging from about $300 to several thousand dollars. The number of victims and amount of losses is not immediately known. Officials are asking anyone with information about the fraud schemes to contact their local FBI office.
Thousands of unaccompanied Central American children have recently poured into South Texas, though federal officials say the flow has slowed in recent weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.