A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress representing border states introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at responding to “the surge” at the U.S.-Mexico border by creating “regional processing centers” along the southern border to process migrants.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, along with Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, joined together to present the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, which attempts to help the federal government better manage influxes in migration.
The bill would direct the Biden administration to establish regional processing centers that “are not long-term detention facilities, but facilities where DHS can bring multiple agencies under one roof to carry out activities such as criminal history checks, legal orientation programming, issuance of immigration court documents, and communication and coordination with Non-Governmental Organizations,” according to a bill summary.
The bill would also authorize the Homeland Security Department to conduct pilot programs in an effort to improve the asylum process by giving migrants better access to counsel and case management while they await asylum hearings, and it would require DHS to notify local government agencies and nongovernmental organizations prior to releasing migrants so as to avoid burdening local communities.
“I’ve seen firsthand how Arizona, and specifically small communities along the border, pay the price for the federal government’s failure to fix our broken immigration system,” Sinema said in a press release.
“With the Border Patrol estimating that this situation will only get worse, we must address this in a meaningful way that is fair to migrants seeking asylum, takes the pressure off of our border communities, and allows our Border Patrol agents to focus on their primary mission of securing the border,” Cornyn said in a statement of his own.
“If CBP expects more apprehensions this year than at any point in the past two decades, we need to create common-sense solutions that will comprehensively address the current surge of irregular migration,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar, for his part, has stood out among Democrats for diverging from the pack on immigration messaging, questioning the Biden administration’s strategy.
“Take into consideration the people on the border. That’s all I’m asking. I’m a Democrat. I’m just saying, take us into consideration,” Cuellar said on March 25, continuing, “Let us help you find a solution because this is not the first rodeo that we’ve been at. I was here in 2014. I was here in 2019. Obama. Trump. We’ve seen this before, so we want to be helpful.”
Sinema’s home-state governor, Doug Ducey, declared a state of emergency in Arizona on Tuesday over the border situation, calling in 250 National Guard troops to assist with medical operations and monitor human smuggling trends.