Kyrsten Sinema vents frustrations on border trip with Republicans

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Kyrsten Sinema vents frustrations on border trip with Republicans

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BISBEE, Arizona — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) made an impassioned plea for congressional immigration reform Wednesday, saying residents in her state have been unfairly affected by the Biden administration’s executive changes over the last two years.

Sinema, who hosted a bicameral group of GOP lawmakers in eastern Arizona, pointed to rancher John Ladd, whose experience living on the border had changed from president to president over several decades despite no policies having been approved by Congress.

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“That’s not fair,” Sinema said during a press conference at the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department office following a meeting with local officials. “That shouldn’t be John’s experience, right? John should get to expect that the security and safety of his property is consistent from one administration to the next. He doesn’t have that promise right now. It’s Congress’s job to affect laws that create that level of security and predictability for John and his family.”

Sinema, a former Democrat who converted to an independent last year, brought Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) to the Raul Hector Castro Land Port of Entry in Douglas and along the border in Naco. The outreach to Republicans is notable as Sinema seeks to pass immigration reforms in a divided Congress.

“It takes a group of members of the House and the Senate to come together and just get it done,” Gonzales said. “This can’t be the normal. This cannot be normal. There is nothing more dangerous if this becomes our new normal for our next generation.”

Mayor Clea McCaa came to the meeting from Sierra Vista, a town of 45,000 residents about 20 miles west of Bisbee, that has been hard hit by daily human smuggling traffic.

McCaa said his house backs up to the Interstate 90 highway, a major thoroughfare for “load drivers,” or people who have been paid to transport illegal immigrants from the border further into the country. Drivers regularly lead police on noisy high-speed chases.

Recently, one such smuggler was speeding through town and crashed into a bicyclist — less than 100 feet from his mother’s house, he said.

“I’m so fearful that the chief of police is going to call my phone and say, ‘Hey, sir, we had another fatality,’” McCaa told the Washington Examiner in an interview after the meeting.

Sinema said local communities have worked together for the past two years in response to the border crisis “even in the face of an unwilling or uncooperative or levels of incompetent federal bureaucracy.”

“What we’re seeing in Cochise County is a border security crisis, but in order to solve it, we must also address the cracks in the legal system that need to be addressed,” Sinema said. “Right now, the United States government is not choosing who enters this country. Cartels are choosing. That is dangerous.”

Several of the group’s members, including Tillis and Gonzales, said immigration reform and border security must be dealt with together because they go hand and hand and greatly affect one another.

Late last year, Tillis and Sinema unsuccessfully attempted to push a deal to give 2 million illegal immigrants a way to become U.S. citizens in return for an extension to the pandemic policy Title 42, which has allowed U.S. border officials to turn away some illegal immigrants. The two senators traveled to the border together in January.

“It’s about getting votes in the House and the Senate,” Tillis said. “One of the ways that I think that you can influence future flows after we, as we move forward with border security measures, is to give people the opportunity to immigrate here legally or either work here legally.

“The problem that you have now with [it taking] 17 years to [obtain] a green card, it’s very, very difficult to even get guest workers in and out of here even though many of them are returning workers,” Tillis added. “You have to take a look at those policies and put them on the table. And without some balance, nothing will get done.”

Until Congress finds a solution, the border crisis continues to take a toll on Arizona residents.

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McCaa has offered to run errands for elderly people at his church who would otherwise be out at night and face a greater risk of getting caught up in a vehicle pursuit by police. He’s had to restrict his teenage daughter’s driving times and locations in the hope of keeping her out of the way of a potential chase.

“I’m absolutely fearful of letting — my 16-year-old daughter just started driving — I’m fearful of letting her drive on the highway,” McCaa said, “because I don’t know what’s going to happen in town. I’m teaching her how to take residential routes to school.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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