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Mark Kelly
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Mark Kelly says building walls makes sense at some parts of the border

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly in the KTAR News studio in 2019. (KTAR News File Photo/Matt Bertram)

PHOENIX — U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly says the country needs to strengthen border security by implementing new technology and building barriers at some parts.

“In certain areas, a barrier or a wall does make sense. Certainly in Yuma, Nogales, Douglas,” the Tucson Democrat told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

“There are other places, and if you talk to the Border Patrol about this, what’s needed is more technology and more staffing.”

Kelly called the influx of asylum seekers at the border a “crisis” and said he does not support abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an idea that some Democrats have pushed.

“We have spent $260 billion on immigration enforcement since the mid-1980s and what have we gotten for it? It hasn’t been working,” he said.

“We clearly need better border security. We need a system that can handle and process the asylum seekers. … We need more immigration judges at the border to process these individuals.”

One thing that Kelly said needs to change is the practice of separating families when they are taken into custody.

“Let me be clear — we can’t be taking children away from their parents and locking them in cages. I don’t think that’s who we are as a country,” he said.

“Washington needs to do a much better job in handling this crisis.”

Kelly, who is a retired Navy captain and former astronaut, said active-duty military shouldn’t be stationed at the border.

“Our military is designed to handle national security threats … typically overseas. To deploy active duty military troops at the border, I personally don’t think that’s the right approach. They’re not trained for that,” he said.

The 55-year-old also disagrees with 10 of his party’s presidential candidates, who at a debate earlier this month signaled support for including immigrants living in the country illegally in government health care plans.

“Health care is something that people care about. They want good health care coverage that they’re not going to lose if they get sick, that they keep if they have a pre-existing condition,” he said.

“They’re concerned about their prescription drug prices, premiums and deductibles. Those are the things we need to be focused on.”

Kelly will likely face Republican Sen. Martha McSally in the 2020 election for the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, which McSally was appointed to in December.

Kelly is the only declared Democratic candidate for the seat so far.

The person elected will serve alongside Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who was elected to Jeff Flake’s seat in November.

The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner will have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.

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