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McSally, Sinema think asylum process must be changed to slow immigration

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — Both U.S. senators from Arizona agreed Thursday that the process of claiming asylum needs to be changed to address the crisis at the border.

Republican Sen. Martha McSally told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos that Congress needs to change the way asylum claims are processed.

“So many people are taking advantage of the low threshold in that initial interview. They know all they have to say is ‘I have a credible fear,’ and they’re put now into the asylum process, they’re then released into the interior of the United States,” she said.

“Raise the threshold in that initial interview. … Let’s get some judges down to the border, process them in a faster time frame, so that we don’t have all these false asylum claims that are really allowing people to disappear.”

In a separate interview, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told Mac & Gaydos that she met with an agent during her recent tour of the border who said asylum claims need to be dealt with much more quickly.

“His suggestion was to get specialized asylum officers at the ports of entry and bring down hundreds of more immigration judges to quickly process these cases so that individuals who do not qualify for asylum can be put on planes and sent back to their home countries,” she said.

She said if there aren’t enough judges, some attorneys can be given temporary judicial status, which could help with the backlog.

Both senators said current laws are being exploited by human smugglers, who see this as a path to gaining people entrance into the country.

“People in these countries are being told that they can come to the U.S. and apply for asylum and it’s a way to get into the country,” Sinema said.

“I believe if we were able to process these cases quickly … put people on planes, send them back to their home country, it would send a clear message to the criminal syndicates who are running these operations that this is not an effective way to get people into the United States of America.”

McSally said no matter how hard it is for Congress to come to an agreement, they must keep working.

“What I’m taking about with loophole laws I think would be a consensus issue with Republicans, and I think Democrats who are looking at this reasonably would realize they need to vote on this,” she said.

“So we could close those loopholes tomorrow with emergency legislation … and it would change the pull factor.”

Sinema said she doubts if lawmakers will be able to come to a solution.

“Finding a legislative solution where you have to get Congress to pass a law is going to be difficult given the brokenness of this Congress,” she said.

But both senators agreed that the situation at hand is urgent and needs to be acted on as soon as possible.

“I think most Americans would agree we are facing a crisis,” Sinema said.

“And while Arizona is seeing less of an influx of these migrants … than California and Texas, it’s still overwhelming our system and overwhelming our local communities.”

McSally also said she believes most Americans view the situation as a “crisis.”

“You don’t cut the line. We have a very robust, legal immigration system, but we’ve got to stop this nonsense from happening,” she said.

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