Sen. Kyrsten Sinema defended the fledgling border security deal she helped broker, hailing it as a path to end catch and release.
Catch and release is the practice of US Border Patrol releasing migrants who have been detained while they await a hearing in an immigration court, often to adjudicate an asylum claim. US immigration courts are currently mired with massive backlogs.
“Our law changes that and in the practice of capture, release,” Sinema (I-Ariz.) told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“So when people approach the border and say they want to enter our country to seek asylum they will go into … short-term detention, which means we take them into custody,” she went on.
“And we actually do an interview right then and there to determine if they meet the standard for asylum.”
She noted that individuals who do not meet that standard, which “is most of the migrants who are coming to our country right now,” will be returned to their home country under the bill.
While the text hadn’t yet been released as of press time, details of it, seen by The Post revealed it would create an authority to automatically reject migrants trying to enter the US once crossings exceed 5,000 in a day.
The deal, which Sinema, 47, helped negotiate with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has faced stiff resistance from House Republicans including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
Former President Donald Trump has also pressed the GOP to scuttle it.
Republicans had demanded more robust border security provisions in exchange for President Biden’s $106 billion supplemental request featuring aid to war-torn Ukraine and Israel, which prompted the negotiations.
Sinema, who hails from a border state, stressed that there has been a lot of “misinformation” swirling around about the 5,000 figure.
“First of all, our law ends catch and release. But when too many people approach the border, asking to come in seeking asylum, we’re now mandating that the government actually shut down the border, if those numbers get to 5,000 a day,” she explained.
“But we’re permitting the government to actually shut down the border when it only gets to 4,000 approaches a day,” she said. “The reason we’re doing that is because we want to be able to shut down the system when it gets overloaded.”
Biden has vowed to sign the measure into law and use that power right away.
“While the current administration does bear responsibility for mishandling the border, we have to give new legal tools to the administration,” she stressed.
Some progressives such as Greg Casar (D-Texas) have panned the measure, arguing that it included too many concessions for Republicans and that expelling migrants could result in them getting exploited back home.
“We will believe that by quickly implementing this system, individuals who come for economic reasons, will learn very quickly that this is not a path to enter our country, and will not take the sometimes dangerous or treacherous trek to our border,” Sinema countered when asked about those concerns.
Sinema explained that while many migrants have legitimate asylum claims, there are also a plethora of “economic migrants” who are simply seeking a “better life.”
“They are not permitted to enter the country whenever they would like, and our new law will ensure that they can’t get into the country,” she said.
During fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, a record-breaking 2.47 million migrant encounters were recorded along the Mexico frontier, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Another 302,034 people illegally crossing the border were apprehended in December.
Sinema was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat before swapping her party affiliation in December 2022 amid a series of clashes against progressives.
Alongside Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sinema helped torpedo several trillion dollar iterations of Biden’s so-called “Build Back Better” plan. Later in 2022, Biden managed to secure passage of the watered-down Inflation Reduction Act.
The battle for her seat in Arizona is already underway with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and former gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake the two frontrunners in their respective parties.
Sinema, who has been coy about whether she intends on running, once again sidestepped the question. The filing deadline is in April.
“I think folks across Arizona and the country know that when I decide I’m going to work on something that’s important for our state and for our nation, I stay focused on it,” Sinema replied when asked about her reelection plans.