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Cornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge

Cornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge
© Greg Nash

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (R-Texas) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms Ex-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds Sinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' MORE (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation Thursday aimed at responding to a surge of immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, would establish regional processing centers, prioritize the scheduling of immigrant cases during a surge, create a pilot program to try to establish a "fairer and more efficient" way to decide asylum cases and focus on protections for unaccompanied migrant children. 

It would also increase staff for migrant surges including 150 immigration judges and 300 asylum officers. 

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"The crisis at the border is not a Democratic or Republican problem. ... This is an American problem," Sinema told reporters on a call about the legislation. 

In addition to introducing the bill in the Senate, Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) filed companion legislation in the House. 

The bipartisan legislation comes after Sinema and Cornyn sent a letter to Biden late last month urging him to use his “full authorities” to respond to a surge of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The administration has been grappling with an influx of migrants at the southern border, many of them unaccompanied children or teenagers. Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 170,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in the month of March, the highest number in at least 15 years.

Cornyn and Sinema are both taking part in a bipartisan group trying to figure out if there's an immigration deal that could get 60 votes in the Senate, the amount needed to overcome a filibuster. 

The House passed legislation earlier this year on dreamers — immigrants brought into the country as children — and agricultural workers. 

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But Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDOJ faces big decision on home confinement America's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (D-Ill.) told The Hill this week that in order to pass the Senate, those topics would need to be merged with border security in order to pick up enough GOP votes. 

"I think we've got to have a credible southern border effort to make this work," he said, referring to ways to get 10 GOP votes. 

Durbin is leading the bipartisan talks, with senators meeting for a second time this week. 

Cornyn and Sinema are meeting with Durbin next week to talk about their border proposal. 

They both said that they were open to trying to pass it as either a larger agreement or as a stand-alone, but that, given the immediacy, it should happen quickly. 

"I do think that given what's happening and the concerns that the public has about it, I think it would be well advised to try to do this now," Cornyn said.