U.S. Senator Martha McSally was in Yuma on Wednesday and said Congress must act to address what she says is a crisis at the border.
Senator McSally said Congress needs to address loopholes in the immigration system that she says has incentivized thousands of Central American migrants to enter the country illegally and ask for asylum.
On Tuesday, Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls said he was issuing a state of emergency because non-governmental organizations that have been assisting the migrants are being overwhelmed by the hundreds of people coming through every day.
McSally spoke with Nicholls and other community leaders before she spoke with reporters at the Yuma International Airport.
“This is not a game," she said."This is a very real crisis that as you can see is overwhelming communities like Yuma. I’m just calling on my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in Washington, DC to come to the table so that we can pass legislation so we can close these loopholes.”
McSally said the loopholes include challenges in returning unaccompanied minors to their home countries beyond Mexico, laws that limit how long family units can be detained and low asylum process standards.
McSally said she and fellow Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wrote a letter requesting that agents not be removed from ports of entry.
This has been done in recent weeks to move agents to deal with the large number of Central American asylum-seeking migrants who cross illegally away from the port.
But that has led to longer wait times in San Luis for American citizens returning from Mexico, legal workers and Mexican shoppers coming into Yuma County. People crossing have reported wait times of several hours because fewer lanes are open for pedestrians and motorists alike.
“It is having significant impact at the ports for the legitimate cross-border commerce, the daily traffic that you have here," McSally said. "This is just another reason why we have got to stop this crisis.”
While she was in Yuma, McSally also met with local military leaders about the need to address sexual assault in the military. McSally has said she is a survivor of sexual abuse from a military leader.