President Joe Biden’s administration seemingly made a snap decision to visit the southern border. Maybe it was just on the way to Santa Lucía, Mexico, where Biden was scheduled to attend the North American Leaders Summit. Perhaps it was designed to neutralize Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-AZ) tour that had been in the works for the last month or so. Whatever the reason, the border has now been visited by the president and a bipartisan group of senators. But the question remains: Will anything change?
Just a day after the presidential visit, Senators Sinema, John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) were at the US Border. The trip began in El Paso, TX, where the group reviewed Biden’s brief visit. On the second day of the junket, they traveled to Yuma, AZ, to see what is called a “soft-sided” processing center, the Morales Dam Gap, and the Cocopah Fence break known as the Yuma Gap.
Sen. Sinema said in a statement:
“Arizona border communities shoulder the burden of Washington’s failure to solve our border and immigration crisis. I’m glad to lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues to visit the Southwest Border, and I appreciate their commitment to learning and understanding the many diverse challenges facing our border communities. I believe by working together, we can bridge divides, help find lasting solutions, and start solving the crisis at our border.”
Bipartisan All the Way
Texan Cornyn led the El Paso tour, showing bipartisan team spirit. Cornyn has been griping for years about enforcing the immigration laws in place and working on a solution that works for immigrants and communities today. The senators met with El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, who came prepared with a book of photos to demonstrate the city’s illegal immigrant reality. The mayor explained that his city did not look as clean and orderly less than a week ago, which is why the Border Patrol union tweeted prior to Air Force One landing: “El Paso being cleaned up as if nothing unusual ever happened there. Just in time for Biden’s visit to the border. We suggest just landing in Des Moines, Iowa, and telling him it’s El Paso. He’ll never know the difference.”
“What we see today is not what we saw two weeks ago, not what we may see next week,” Cornyn commented to reporters.
On day two, Sinema and Kelly led the group of lawmakers during the visit to Yuma. Over several hours, the senators were briefed by the Arizona National Guard and Border Patrol. They also met with religious and tribal leaders and the Regional Center for Border Health.
Just a few years ago, Yuma was a sleepy US border town that maybe saw up to 8,000 arrivals of hopeful immigrants a year. Today, numerous people from countries as diverse as Russia, Georgia, India, and Nicaragua arrive daily. “It’s a really big challenge. This is a global issue we are experiencing,” said Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health. The organization is charged with helping people find transportation so they can reunite with relatives and wait out the processing of asylum status.
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls has repeatedly begged leaders in the Washington bubble to create lasting policy changes. “Money doesn’t make it go away,” he said, saying that additional funding is “just a stopgap.”
US Border – Who Wins Custody?
For those not paying attention, President Biden has indicated he is running for re-election. Why else visit the border he avoided for so long? And suddenly, the calls for an open border have no place in Biden’s quest to save the soul of the nation or, more importantly, his presidential bid. Republicans will balk. Democrats have controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House for two years, but only now have they deigned to visit the border and acknowledge the crisis down south. Biden has previously stated, “Because there are more important things going on.” It appears priorities have shifted.
But perhaps the independent Sinema can convince both sides of the aisle to bite their collective tongues and do what’s right for the southwest communities overburdened and stuck with the ballooning tab. As the Arizona maverick said: “We call on the administration to do a better job of administering the laws that we have in place, but we know that it is our job as members of Congress to change those laws and close the loopholes so that we can indeed create a system that works for all people.”
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