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Senate Border Deal Would Speed Asylum Review, Limiting Releases

(Bloomberg) -- A top Senate negotiator laid out key details of bipartisan border legislation ahead of its expected release on Sunday, outlining new asylum rules she said would slash the release of migrants into the US.

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Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona, said the proposals give “tools to this administration and future administrations to actually gain control of the border” with Mexico, where a surge of migrants has increased challenges for officials and turned into a divisive election-year topic.

Those who approach the border seeking asylum protection will either be held in custody and face an immediate review of their asylum claims, or be released under close government supervision for a decision on their case within three months, Sinema said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Those who don’t meet asylum standards will be “swiftly returned to their home country,” she said.

The proposed change is designed to address immigration-court backlogs that border hawks have long blamed for drawing people to the US. Under the existing legal system, migrants who claim asylum at the border are allowed into the US and funneled into immigration court proceedings that can drag out for years or even longer than a decade.

The Border Patrol released more than 1.8 million migrants into the US from fiscal 2021 to 2023, a sharp increase over less than a quarter-million the previous three years, according to federal data. The migrant releases have stoked ire — and political recriminations — in US border states and northern cities alike, as communities struggle to provide services for the new arrivals.

Sinema also addressed “misinformation” around an element of the border deal that would give the president sweeping new authority to turn away asylum-seekers and other migrants whenever the border is deemed overwhelmed. Even before the emergency authority kicks in, any migrants approaching the border would be subject to the fast-tracked asylum review or deportation process.

Sinema and other negotiators — Oklahoma Republican James Lankford and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy — have spent weeks defending the key elements of the deal as House Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Donald Trump throw cold water on it.

Johnson, speaking on Meet the Press on NBC, reiterated concerns that the Senate compromise, which he hasn’t yet read, isn’t strong enough. Sinema said she’s confident “everyone has an opportunity to be persuaded.”

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