“This continues to be a major problem that should not fall on the shoulders of communities in Arizona. And I think it was important to point out that that wasn’t part of last night’s address, ”Kelly said in an interview. “We have to fix this problem and it can’t be the taxpayers in Arizona and the cities in Arizona that are really struggling right now. It is a problem of the federal government.
Biden mentioned immigration reform on Wednesday, saying the government must question why people are fleeing the northern triangle of Central America for the United States. The president has touted his immigration program as critical to securing the southern border with new spending on security technology for border states like Arizona. But Kelly said Biden had “not specifically” addressed “what I would say is a border crisis in Arizona and Texas.”
Kelly said he was in regular consultation with Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, adding that he had asked the White House to send more resources to tackle growing migration. He admitted that Biden had a long list of issues to discuss in a limited amount of time, “but I thought [the border] was an important question to be resolved.
Kelly’s colleague, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Partnered with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on immigration, first asking Biden to address the rise in migration in a letter , then introducing bipartite border legislation. She and Kelly also chatted with key officials in Biden’s administration.
On Thursday, she backed him in a statement through a spokesperson who aligned with Kelly’s criticisms of Biden’s border strategy.
“Sen. Sinema has made it clear that she – along with Senator Kelly – wants to see more action from the administration to resolve the border crisis and support Arizona border communities, ”the spokesperson said.
Mayorkas has warned that this year could mark a two-decade peak in southern border crossings by undocumented immigrants, but there are signs the numbers are stabilizing, according to customs and border protection statistics. There are far fewer children in CBP care and apprehensions are down from their peak, although the number of migrant children in health and social care remains high.
And the question remains politically important. The Republican National Senate Committee, which placed Kelly at the top of its list of vulnerable Democrats mid-term, criticized him for sitting “with folded arms” while Sinema works on the issue. The GOP’s campaign arm also criticized him for his votes on non-binding budget amendments related to border security and immigration.
Chris Hartline, a spokesperson for the NRSC, said if Kelly was concerned about border security, he should have spoken out when Biden rescinded Trump’s declaration of a national border emergency.
Kelly’s budget votes “are going to stick around her neck the entire cycle. Voted more money for the border. Voted to allow sanctuary towns. Voted to send stimulus checks to illegal immigrants,” Hartline said. “He helped create this crisis.”
The first-term senator, however, made sure his state knew it was focusing on the border. Kelly had a private border security discussion with Gov. Doug Ducey, which many Republicans want to run against him. The Democrat has also visited the border twice and this week held a call with sheriffs from border communities.
In an interview last week, Sinema said she was confident her state would recognize Kelly’s efforts at election time. She also said she would support his campaign in “any way he finds the most useful.”
“It does the work that matters to the people back home in Arizona,” she said. “And there will soon be a time when he starts talking to them about all of this.