Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema discusses details of comprehensive border bill

Jan 25, 2024, 4:25 AM | Updated: 9:03 am

Sinema walking out of door....

A comprehensive border bill expected to release later in the week aims to address key challenges in border security and immigration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHOENIX — More details were discussed on Tuesday about what will be included in the text of a border bill being constructed by U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Sinema is one of three authors of the bill, which is expected to be released as soon as this week but not to be voted on until later.

“We are very close to having our text ready to be released,” Sinema told the KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mike Broomhead show.

“In fact, we’ve moved over to the appropriations part of the deal, which is the part where you attach the dollars to actually implement the policy changes that you’ve negotiated. So that’s great news. It means we’re in the final stages and we do expect to have our text out very soon.”

The bill is being drafted by Sinema, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Sinema mentioned that the drafting of this bill has been the most difficult negotiation of her career because there are many technical policy issues with regards to national sovereignty and state’s rights that make it hard to draw up laws that will hold in court.

The bill is constructed on two basic principles: one focused on securing an orderly migration of people at the physical border, and the other on closing the loopholes for those who are taking advantage of claiming asylum.

One objective of proposed legislation: Creating an orderly, safe border

Late last year, the Lukeville port of entry was shut down for a month due to overwhelming volume and nearby holes in the border wall.

This bill aims to prevent that from happening again by securing the area and creating an orderly, safe method for immigrants to enter the country.

It includes legislation that will allow authorities to deny entry.

“We don’t have the ability to turn people away when they come to our border, even when they’re entering through gaps or holes that have been cut in the border wall as we’ve seen down at Lukeville every day,” Sinema said.

The ability to turn people back to Mexico helps deal with the lapses in the physical border and to handle periods of high volume.

“So we actually can turn folks away on days when there’s not an ability to process that many people who are coming to our country and seeking asylum,” she said.

“So we’re actually changing the way that we monitor and manage our border so we have operational control.”

Another goal: Reforming asylum claim rules

The second prong of the two-pronged bill addresses the loopholes in the asylum system.

“Thousands of thousands of people come into our country every single day claiming asylum,” Sinema said. “We know that most of those individuals are not true asylum seekers. They’re not fleeing persecution or torture or risk of death in their home country.”

Sinema said that the loopholes to claim asylum are currently too relaxed and ineffective.

“The reality is economic migrants are not supposed to use asylum as a tool to enter the country. But right now the policy is not working,” Sinema said.

Who the bill doesn’t address: Dreamers

The bill does not include legislation to help expedite the processing of the Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. illegally at a young age in situations that were out of their control, Sinema said.

“This a border security package that seeks to create security and order on the border and to ensure that cartels are no longer able to exploit our Asylum system,” she said.

“It does not address immigration policy for dreamers or farm workers or many other populations that are very important to Arizona’s economy.”

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Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema discusses details of comprehensive border bill