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Sinema believes pilot program will accelerate asylum process

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona believes an immigration pilot program she supports will speed up the asylum process for some migrant families at the southern border.

Sinema was one of nine senators who sent a letter to President Donald Trump on July 17 asking for the implementation of “Operation Safe Return,” which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to make a decision on asylum seekers within 15 days.

“We’re excited about this pilot program because it will increase the likelihood migrants are treated fairly and humanely and alleviate crowding and help people get home faster,” Sinema told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Wednesday. “We’d do it in a process of 15 days so that people aren’t sitting in those yucky conditions for weeks on end.”

The plan doesn’t require new legislation or money, and wouldn’t apply to asylum seekers in some cases, according to Sinema.

There currently isn’t a streamlined process to handling asylum seekers, which has led to overcrowding and the documentation of poor living conditions.

Sinema said opponents of the pilot program are concerned that asylum seekers won’t receive due process and could get sent back to an unsafe situation.

Through June, 390,000 members of family units and 63,000 unaccompanied minors had been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.

“It’s a very real concern, and that’s why this process includes things like medical checks for both adults and children, access to attorneys so people get the care they need and they get the due process they deserve,” Sinema said.

Sinema added that those who articulate specific experiences that would make it unsafe to return to their home countries wouldn’t be eligible for the program.

Sinema hopes if the program is implemented, it can eventually be used across the entirety of the southern border.

“We’re asking them to use powers they already have to actually help surge resources to more quickly and accurately process people’s claims so that people who have the legal right to stay in this country can do so and those who do not have the legal right are safely and swiftly returned home,” Sinema said.

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