Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) said during an interview with the Washington Post that members of his party are “not even close” to understanding the problems on the U.S. southern border.
“Absolutely not. Not even close,” the incumbent senator said when asked if members of his party understood “the complexity of the issue and the frustrations that people have.”
“When I first got to Washington, it didn’t take me long to realize that there are a lot of Democrats who don’t understand our southern border and a lot of Republicans who just want to talk about it. Don’t necessarily want to do anything about it, just want to use it politically. So my approach has been — to the extent that we could and can — to make progress on securing it, but also doing it in a way that’s in accordance with our ethics and our values, not to demonize people,” Kelly added.
In the interview published Monday, Kelly advocated a middle-of-the-road approach to border issues, saying he wants to secure the border but not in a way that would “demonize people.” He did not elaborate much further on how he would secure the border beyond, “We have to do more in border security. We have to do more in comprehensive immigration reform, especially ‘dreamers,’ but also these visa programs. If you’re a farmer, especially in Southern Arizona, despite having a ready supply of eager workers, you don’t have the visas available and it’s a problem for them.”
The Department of Homeland Security recently reported that nearly 2.4 million immigrants had been detained on the U.S. southern border during the fiscal year ending in September. That number represented a 37% increase from the previous fiscal year. Additionally, Customs and Border Protection announced over 230,000 encounters with migrants at the southern border during October alone.
Last week, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., blocked the further use of Title 42, which allows the government to deport migrants from the border in the interest of public health. Title 42 had been activated during the Trump administration to expel migrants entering the country during the COVID pandemic.
Kelly first entered the Senate after defeating Republican candidate Martha McSally in the race for the open Arizona seat previously held by the late John McCain. The senator is projected to win his first full term after defeating Republican candidate Blake Masters by almost five points in the recent midterm election.
Compared to many others in the Democratic Party, Kelly has taken a relatively moderate stance on the border. He teamed up with retiring Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, fellow Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford back in August to introduce a bill that would raise Border Patrol agents’ pay as well as create a 2,500-agent border reserve force.
Kelly has also expressed his support for a pathway to citizenship for those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as “Dreamers.”
“DACA needs to be protected. But it doesn’t change the fact that Congress must act to provide Dreamers with the certainty of a clear pathway to citizenship,” Kelly tweeted in September 2021.
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