Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is spearheading a push to more quickly remove foreign nationals without a valid claim to asylum in the United States, along with eight other Senators.
“The program would allow the Department of Homeland Security to deport certain migrants within 15 days, according to the letter, and would help alleviate overcrowding at border facilities, Sinema said,” AZ Central reported.
“This pilot program would apply to families who aren’t claiming ‘credible fear,’ which of course is the first threshold in seeking asylum,” Sinema told The Arizona Republic. “If someone says ‘I left my country because I can’t make a living,’ (or) ‘it’s hard to take care of my family’ — that’s what we call an economic migrant.”
Sinema shares credit for the program Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“Sinema said she came up with the idea for the pilot program in response to a meeting with White House and Trump administration officials who she said were focused on changing asylum laws and challenging court rulings like the Flores Settlement Agreement, dictating how the government treats certain migrants,” AZ Central reported.
“I just felt those weren’t the right answers,” Sinema added. “We wanted to solve the problem. We wanted to protect the asylum process for valid applicants … and we want to respect the Flores decision.”
Board member with the American Immigration Lawyers Association Ruben Reyes said that he’s concerned that despite complaints about how asylum seekers are treated while in United States custody, potentially flawed implementation could cause more issues, such as the family separations of last year.
“We still have children who are missing in the system,” Reyes said. “So we can’t take this letter outside of the context of what’s happened for the year and a half.”
Along with Sinema and Johnson, the official letter was signed by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Joe Manchin D-W.Va.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; Doug Jones, D-Ala.; Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“We have worked with your agencies to develop a streamlined process to rapidly, accurately, and fairly determine those family units that do not have a valid legal claim and safely return those individuals to their home countries,” the senators’ letter says. “The process would use existing authorities, but surge necessary resources to a limited, particular location on the southern border.”