By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who defeated GOP challenger Martha McSally (herself now a U.S. senator after being appointed to replace the late Sen. John McCain) is proving to be a pleasant surprise in the Trump administration’s effort to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sinema (D-Ariz.), a freshman senator, joined Republican Senate colleagues this week in pushing for a new policy aimed at more quickly adjudicating inappropriate asylum claims by migrants who have illegally crossed the border, a plan that would, if implemented, dramatically ease pressures along the border.
She is leading a campaign to implement a pilot program that would ‘streamline’ removal of migrants and migrant families who are claiming economic hardship rather than credible fear of becoming victims of violence, the Arizona Republic reports:
Sinema, D-Ariz., joined a bipartisan group with eight other senators who sent a letter Wednesday to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan describing their proposed program, dubbed “Operation Safe Return.”
They’ll have the chance to make their case during a meeting with McAleenan in the coming weeks.
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.
“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.”
She’s one of the plan’s chief architects, behind Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Sinema noted that she came up with the idea for a pilot program after meeting with White House and Trump administration officials who, she said, were concentrating on changes to asylum laws and challenging existing federal court rulings like the Flores Settlement Agreement which dictates how the government has to treat certain migrants, the paper said.
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.
“I just felt those weren’t the right answers,” Sinema noted. “We wanted to solve the problem. We wanted to protect the asylum process for valid applicants … and we want to respect the Flores decision.”
The letter to McAleenan provides additional details about the program, dubbed “Operation Safe Return.”
In addition to Sinema and Johnson, the 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.”
The pilot program sets up a timeline for U.S. Border Patrol agents to screen illegal alien families apprehended between ports of entry “within a limited area” of the southwestern border. The policy does not change current rules in place to administration interviews to establish credible fear.
“Within approximately 15 days after being encountered, the Department of Homeland Security should remove family units whose negative credible fear determinations are affirmed by the immigration judge,” the letter says.
Sinema said she and Johnson will meet with McAleenan and Homeland Security officials as early as next week to discuss the details of possible implementation of the program.
“They’ve indicated a strong interest in this program for several reasons,” she said.
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