Senators visit Arizona border in search of solutions

Politicians, tribal leaders and the director of a local Yuma County, Ariz., humanitarian group called on a diverse delegation of senators from across the United States to pass immigration reform amid a surge in immigrant arrivals that could overwhelm local resources.

Arizona Independent Sen. Krysten Sinema and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn led the eight-member delegation that visited Yuma, a day after a similar visit to El Paso, Texas.

The bi-state tour comes amid calls for Washington to find new ways to deal with the growing number of people arriving at the US southern border from around the world. The day before, President Joe Biden was in El Paso on his way to a summit of North American leaders in Mexico City.

Work in Congress to pass large-scale immigration reform has repeatedly stalled in recent years.

Biden announced in recent days an important change in immigration policy that will create new access routes to the United States for some immigrants. But it will also require that, in many cases, migrants remain in their countries of origin while their applications are evaluated.

“This is a very, very difficult issue, but this is a group of senators with a track record of accomplishment,” Sinema said.

Hundreds of people from countries as diverse as Russia, Georgia, India and Nicaragua arrive daily at the US-Mexico border in Yuma County, most seeking asylum. A few years ago, Yuma was a quiet point on the border where some 8,000 people a year arrived.

“It is a very big challenge. We are going through a global problem,” said Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc., which helps newcomers with transportation so they can join their families in the United States while they wait for their their asylum applications are resolved.

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, a Republican, has repeatedly called on Washington leaders to propose lasting changes to their policies.

“Money doesn’t make it go away,” Nicholls said, saying the additional funds are “just a band-aid.”

Arizona Democratic Sen. John Kelly, who has visited the border numerous times during his two years in office, was also part of the delegation. The rest of the group included Republican Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Jerry Moran of Kansas; and Democratic Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

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