Arizona AG urges senators to push for more federal assistance to combat border crisis

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FIRST ON FOX: Arizona’s attorney general on Tuesday urged the state’s two senators to push for greater federal funding for the state to deal with the surge in migration at the southern border — including more funding for the National Guard, as well as tougher interior enforcement.

“Our office is doing everything it can to protect Arizonans during this rapidly escalating humanitarian and public safety crisis at our southern border,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote to Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. “While our nation has faced migrant surges in the past — this is the worst it has been in more than twenty years.”

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Arizona has been one of the states hardest hit by the crisis at the southern border, which has escalated in recent months and saw more than 178,000 migrant encounters in April alone.

Brnovich requests additional State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding, saying that only 7% of the approximately $19 million in costs related to criminal illegal immigrants were reimbursed by the feds in 2019.

He also calls for more National Guard funding from the federal government after the state’s governor deployed 250 guardsmen and women to the border to help deal with the crisis, which he calls a fraction of what was required, noting that 1,400 troops were activated as part of the response to riots in 2020.

“If we can do that, then we should be able to muster at least that amount to defend our border against drug, human and sex traffickers,” he said.

The request also includes a requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pick up convicted illegal immigrant criminals already in the country and who have detainers on them. Brnovich’s office is currently suing ICE in part over its alleged failure to remove criminal illegal immigrants who are subject to deportation due to narrowed guidance from the Biden administration.

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The desire for further funding from the government to deal with the crisis at the border are likely to be shared by the two senators, who have repeatedly put pressure on the Biden administration on the issue of the border and have worked with Republicans for solutions.

Both Kelly and Sinema had written to Biden in April, urging him to reimburse the state for the deployment of the Guard, and have also called out Biden for not doing enough to address the crisis at the border. 

“Sen. Sinema has been clear that she — along with Sen. Kelly — wants to see more action from the administration to address the border crisis and support Arizona border communities. She’s spoken directly with administration officials on this,” Sinema’s office told Fox News in April.

Meanwhile, both senators have worked with Republicans in the chamber to unveil legislation to fix the crisis.

Sinema has introduced legislation with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would improve and streamline the federal government’s response to the border crisis and reduces the impact on border communities in states like Texas and Arizona. Meanwhile, Kelly has introduced legislation including a bill with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a plan to deal with migrant surges, and that would give DHS contingency funding of $1 billion to activate the plan.

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“Senator Mark Kelly understands that Arizonans know all too well what it means to have Washington fail on border security and immigration policy. Kelly has seen these challenges first hand with visits to the U.S.-Mexico border and meetings with mayors, local leaders, nonprofits and Arizonans who live and work on the border,” a spokesperson for Kelly told Fox News. “It’s why he introduced a bipartisan bill with Republican Senator Rob Portman to require a plan to handle increases at the border and provide dedicated funding so that the response does not fall on Arizona communities.”

“Senator Kelly continues to work with Republicans and Democrats, and push the administration to find solutions that secure our border, ensure a humane, safe and orderly response, and support our border communities,” the spokesperson said.

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Recently, Kelly announced that an additional 262 DHS personnel were being diverted to the state, including dozens more volunteers, after the pressure on the administration by the two senators.

The call for further action from the government comes just as Vice President Kamala Harris finished a two-day trip to Mexico and Guatemala as part of her efforts to tackle the “root causes” of the border crisis.

Harris has come under criticism for not visiting the border, and on Tuesday said she did in fact plan to visit – but has not yet given a date. Brnovich had previously invited her to join him on a tour of the border in Arizona but did not receive a response.