Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has become one of only three Democrats to cross the aisle and join Republicans in the push for a program that would quickly deport migrants found making false asylum claims.
Sinema signed on with fellow Democrats Joe Manchin, W.Va., and Doug Jones, Ala, who joined Senate Republicans in approving the Department of Homeland Security’s Operation Safe Return, Fox News reported.
The policy would reform and speed current reviews of asylum claims but also quickly deport those found to be making false claims, Homeland said.
“Through this program, we expect that we can meet our commitments to humanitarian protections while ensuring proper efficiency, timeliness, order, and fairness in the credible fear screening process,” a Senate letter outlined. “We also expect that Operation Safe Return will help us examine current process deficiencies, identify required increases in capacity, and understand the drivers of migration.”
The plan will remove false asylum seekers in 15 days if they do not meet the criteria of “credible fear” or their lives if they return home.
Sinema pointed out that economic migrants do not qualify for asylum.
“This pilot program would apply to families who aren’t claiming ‘credible fear,’ which of course is the first threshold in seeking asylum,” Sinema said. “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.”
“As sympathetic as I am toward anyone who yearns for the freedom and opportunity that America provides, it is not possible to properly accommodate all who do. Those who enter our country illegally without a valid asylum claim put themselves and our society at risk,” Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson added in a statement.
“The goal of our policies should be to reduce the overwhelming flow of illegal migration and convert it to a controllable number of legal immigrants. Hopefully, Operation Safe Return will convince Central Americans, that on a bipartisan basis, America will do everything we can to prevent human traffickers from exploiting our laws and abusing immigrants seeking a better life,” he concluded.
Sinema added that she supports the new policy as an alternative to dropping or revising the 1997 Flores agreement that sets rules for the treatment of migrants and minors.
“I just felt those weren’t the right answers,” she said. “We wanted to solve the problem. We wanted to protect the asylum process for valid applicants … and we want to respect the Flores decision.”
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