Mark Kelly: Democrats ‘absolutely’ don’t recognize the complexity of border challenge

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) arrives to the Capitol for two votes, including the final vote on the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government, on Thursday, September 29, 2022.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said his party “absolutely” does not recognize the complexity of issues at the border in an interview with The Washington Post.

“Absolutely not. Not even close,” Kelly told Post columnist Karen Tumulty, when asked if Democrats understood the complexity of the border challenge.

“When I first got to Washington, it didn’t take me long to realize that there are a lot of Democrats who don’t understand our southern border and a lot of Republicans who just want to talk about it,” he added. “Don’t necessarily want to do anything about it, just want to use it politically.”

Republicans consistently attacked Democrats on immigration during the 2022 midterm campaign amid reports of a record number of migrant encounters at the southern border. GOP lawmakers sought to portray President Biden and his administration as ignoring the issue.

But the Arizona senator told the Post he’s optimistic that lawmakers can agree on a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package.

With Republicans set to take control of the House in January, any immigration deal would need to support from both sides of the aisle to arrive on Biden’s desk. 

Kelly acknowledged GOP control of the lower chamber “presents a little bit of a challenge” to the effort but indicated he believes progress is possible, noting that lawmakers have gotten close “a couple of times.”

Those pushes include an effort in 2007 to provide legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants during the George W. Bush administration, which was blocked in the Senate by 15 Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In 2013, a measure backed by former President Obama and some Senate Republicans died in the House.

This year, frustrations over immigration came to a head after three GOP governors transported migrants to northern, Democrat-run cities in what they said was a protest of the Biden administration’s policies.

That strategy has drawn criticism from liberals, who slammed the relocations as stunts that unfairly use migrants as political pawns.

“I’m an optimist on this stuff,” Kelly told the Post. “We still have a situation where a lot of Democrats don’t really understand it and a lot of Republicans just want to talk about it and use it for political purposes. But I’ll tell you what, I think there are enough of us who understand it and want to accomplish something.”

Tags Biden border security immigration Mark Kelly Mark Kelly

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