Kyrsten Sinema, Eight Other Senators Sign Letter to Speed up Removal of Certain Migrants

July 20, 2019 Updated: July 20, 2019

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is aiming to implement a program at the U.S.-Mexico border that would speed up the removal of migrants without valid asylum claims.

The Arizona Democrat joined eight other senators in signing a letter Wednesday to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, The Arizona Republic reported.

The letter detailed how the pilot program, which is called “Operation Safe Return,” would allow for some migrants to be deported within 15 days.

“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.”

Border Patrol would be given one to three days for “detailed, fair and accurate interviews” with migrant families. If the families are fearful of returning to their home countries, they would be deported, the newspaper reported.

If a family is fearful, the next step would be for asylum officers to conduct a credible-fear interview. The officers would have nine days after the family is caught to do so. After that, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice would have six days to determine a ruling on the case, according to the report.

“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.

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, James Lankford of Oklahoma, John Barrasso and Michael Enzi of Wyoming, and John Cornyn of Texas signed the letter. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama signed the letter as well.

Sinema will meet with Homeland Security officials, potentially next week, to discuss starting the program, The Arizona Republic reported.

“We wanted to solve the problem,” Sinema said. “We wanted to protect the asylum process for valid applicants.”

By Shelby Talcott

RECOMMENDED