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Senators introduce bipartisan immigration bill to address high levels of migration

Two senators from opposing parties and who both represent border states unveiled their immigration bill Thursday to address the rising levels of migrants at the southern border.

The bill, proposed by Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, would increase  the country's capacity to manage the historically high numbers of migrants, increase the speed of adjudicating asylum claims, aid local communities along the border and ensure that migrants are treated humanely and unaccompanied migrant children are protected. The legislation would create four regional processing centers to deal with the current flow of migration. 

Sinema and Cornyn pressured the Biden administration in a letter they sent in March urging the president to address border security and the asylum process.

The senators are also part of a bipartisan group of senators that met on Wednesday and in March to discuss a legislative path forward on immigration. After meeting on Wednesday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a member of the group, said that the starting points in regards to legislation are the two House immigration bills that were both approved on a bipartisan basis in March. He added that  the group would also aim to address border security, but acknowledged the complexity of the problem. 

"It's not a simple issue of, do this and it's fixed," Durbin added. "It involves so many things."

In a press conference, Cornyn called bill a starting point because it's meant to address the most "urgent need" on immigration. Both Cornyn and Sinema said they were open to finding ways to get this legislation passed, whether through a standalone bill or as part of a broader legislative package.

"We've seen the difficulty of doing so-called comprehensive immigration reform," Cornyn said. "So far, we haven't been successful in doing that all the time I've been in the Senate. So, my hope is we would start -- we'd take this first step -- and then we would build from there."

One House-passed immigration bill would grant permanent legal status to "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors and other recipients of specified temporary humanitarian programs. The other measure would enact changes to the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers. The path for these two House-passed immigration bills remains unlikely in a 50-50 Senate.

The proposal by Sinema and Cornyn Sinema and Cornyn's legislation, which has companion legislation in the House, does not contain provisions to address the plight of Dreamers; the senators acknowledge that the bill doesn't tackle every issue related to immigration. Both said they would like to see a permanent solution in legislation for Dreamers. 

"Our goal is to work with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House and with the administration on this proposal, because our goal here is to pass a partial solution to this, decades-old problem," Sinema said in a press conference. "Our goal is to get this passed into law, and so, we're going to go about this in a very practical way of working with everyone we can to get the support we need to pass this legislation."

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