By Torrence Dunham
Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona criticized the Biden administration following a roundtable on the southern border Wednesday, saying nothing has been done to stem the flow of migrants.
“Nothing, there’s not been any active steps to stem the flow of migrants from the border,” Sinema said in a press conference. “One of the things I’ve been working on with my colleagues in both parties is to discuss the fact that the current flow is unsustainable.
“D.C. has shown little regard for the actual crisis that’s occurring in Arizona, and we know that. We’ve paid the price for the federal government’s failure to fix our broken immigration system for most of my lifetime.”
Sinema, who is Chair of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on border management, met with stakeholders on the front line managing the migrant crisis. This included officials from immigration and customs enforcement, border patrol, non-governmental organizations that provide humanitarian aid, as well as leaders from Sky Harbor International Airport and Greyhound Lines to talk about operational challenges.
She said one of the challenges that were discussed at the roundtable is the month-over-month increase of migrants presenting themselves at ports of entry along the southern border, learning that has been occurring each month over the past year.
Chris Clem, chief of the Yuma Sector Border Patrol, told Sinema he is processing over 1,000 migrants each morning.
“We do not have the person-power to do that work,” Sinema said. “Our CBP officers are stretched incredibly thin at our ports of entry.”
Border patrol agents have also told Sinema they are spending less than 10% of their time on patrol as they transport a record number of individuals who approach the border between ports of entry.
Sinema added non-governmental organizations that help migrants are facing capacity concerns. A number of migrants have also been traveling to Sky Harbor Airport recently without finalized travel preparations. She said this has resulted in staff of the airport, who are not trained in providing short-term humanitarian support, assisting migrants.
The bipartisan $1.5 trillion government funding bill includes $150 million that Sinema says will be used to help non-governmental organizations and border communities assist federal agencies to manage the ongoing challenges at the border.
“This funding is emergency relief but as we know it doesn’t solve the crisis we are facing at the border,” Sinema said.
Sinema said she is working with other senators to increase the number of border patrol agents in the southern region and adjust salary and benefits to retain qualified officers, propose legislation that would create regional processing centers to reduce the pressure on border communities, as well as create opportunities to deter people by communicating that coming to the border does not guarantee a long-term stay in the country.
“The administration does need to take action, the last administration also failed in this effort, take action to curb the flow of traffic that is coming from other countries,” Sinema said. “There hasn’t been as much movement on this as those of us in border states like Arizona and Texas have been calling for for many years.”