We’re following the short and long-term effects of closing key Arizona border crossings and ports of entry like Lukeville, as well as the Morley Gate in Nogales.

This week, KGUN 9 talked to U.S. Senator Mark Kelly (D – AZ) and asked him if the Senate can pass any kind of border security or immigration reform in 2024.

Kelly said he’s present in ongoing negotiations between fellow Democrats, Republican colleagues and Pres. Joe Biden. While nothing is set in stone yet, Kelly said any measure of progress could prevent ports like Lukeville from being shut down again.

Below is Sen. Kelly’s full conversation with KGUN 9’s Jos Zozaya, includeing a Zoom interview:

FULL INTERVIEW: Senator Mark Kelly on Arizona Ports ClosingJose Zozaya:”This issue we’re discussing, I know you know, has multiple layers to it: border security and immigration. I know we haven’t spoken personally since last week, when Lukeville, that port of entry was finally reopened. I just wanted to get a sense of how you’re seeing things. I know it hasn’t been that many days since, but what does this signal to you in the bigger scheme of things, when it comes to Arizona’s relationship with Mexico?So much trade; commerce is important. I know you have an interest, (are) passionate for our microchip industry. That’s something you’ve helped bring up to the floor of the Senate. What does this act signal to our communities, and perhaps on the other side of the border, to you?Sen. Mark Kelly:

Before I get to Lukeville, let me just start with: Washington has failed Arizona and other border states on this issue for decades. They’ve really screwed this up, and it’s not fair to communities in southern Arizona.

I’m on the phone constantly with mayors, sheriffs, the Border Patrol sector chiefs and others discussing this issue, trying to come up with solutions.

Closing Lukeville was a mistake. Those ports of entry, whether it’s Lukeville, Douglas, Nogales, San Luis south of Yuma, are so critical to our economy and to the economy of the country. That should not be an option.

So this is a positive step, reopening Lukeville. I’m still concerned that it ever happened, and we have a humanitarian situation that’s at a breaking point; and the folks that work at Border Patrol and CBP are just really stretched thin.

Jose Zozaya:Perhaps to your point: you have all these conversations. You mentioned the folks in these communities seeing these things day to day, the agents and the sector chiefs. I don’t know the length of your conversations with the people at the very top: If that’s with Homeland Security or with the top of CBP… If perhaps, they do see solutions and perhaps they’re looking for more guidance from the White House. I don’t know if those conversations, you feel like are making any progress, because you mentioned for all these years: it feels like we’ve been stuck. Is there any sense in sort a motivation or momentum to understand, This is a problem?

Sen. Mark Kelly:

Well, the problem got so bad, it was at a crisis point, and the system was in danger of entirely collapsing.

The NGOs don’t have the resources to handle the migrants. They assist Border Patrol in moving people north.

We’re trying to get more money. They need more resources. Border Patrol needs more resources. So the President proposed a supplemental bill that had funding in there for Border Patrol agents, asylum officers, some really positive things and more money for border security. We’re currently in negotiation with the White House and Republicans to get a comprehensive deal to deal with this crisis, and we’re making progress.

So, I feel cautiously optimistic about this, but we hope to get a deal in the United States Senate, that, by the way, is strongly bipartisan: Democrats and Republicans coming together to solve problem it’s it should have been solved years ago.

Jose Zozaya:You telling me that, Senator: the context of the question I’m asking is, our partners in Phoenix talked to Governor Hobbs and she was also critical of the decision. You’ve been critical as well. Should it be, to Arizonans, a surprise to hear this is bipartisan agreement on A) getting to the solution and B) you all negotiating that there’s actual things we agree we can do to solve this?Sen. Mark Kelly:

Well, this is one of the more challenging issues we deal with. I’ve been in the Senate for three years and in the first few years, we got a lot of bipartisan legislation passed.

I feel that bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans working together, still works in the Senate and rather well on a lot of different things.

You mentioned semiconductor manufacturing, the Chips and Science Act, which I lead on… it’s going to bring thousands of semiconductor manufacturing jobs and other jobs to our state, renewable energy jobs as well.

There is always room for us to work together to solve the country’s problems. This is an area that’s been historically challenging, but we are making progress.

I’m not ready to say that this is a done deal, but I do feel pretty positive that we’re going to have something that’s going to… provide more personnel, more authorities;

Not only for (Pres. Biden); for Border Patrol to manage this crisis, more resources for these nonprofits that are assisting down at the southern border, and it’ll get us back to the point where we can manage this migration crisis, which, by the way, is not just here in the United States. It’s a worldwide issue.

Jose Zozaya:You mentioned how it is worldwide, Senator. I know neither of us are necessarily the professors or scholars who look at this day in and day out. But if we take a macro view, I’m curious if you’ve been in any rooms to discuss the bigger picture on reforming:Whether that’s within the immigration court system or immigration law, the process for these folks to approach the border if they make the case, with asylum at least, they’re fearing for their lives from their countries that they came from. I know there’s been some quotes Senator Sinema has given to say theres an avenue for at least kind of legal reform. Do you think that it might just be something that we will take at a slower pace, but it could be an option for (in the longer term) actually solving this?Sen. Mark Kelly:

“I think the proposal that the public will probably see here in the coming few weeks will have what, I would say, are reforms to the way the system works.

Right now, it’s broken and it’s unmanageable and it’s been like that for a while.

So it’s not only resources — it’s also some policy changes as well that could help the system work better and where it could be somewhat manageable for Border Patrol.

I really feel for the Border Patrol agents. They got such a tough job, and especially in the last couple of months with the numbers as high as they’ve ever been.

And then, because of that, we wind up with situations like Lukeville being closed to pull those personnel to help border patrol with the processing of migrants.

We need a system that treats people fairly, in accordance with our ethics and morals, but also works; works for our country, works for our future, works for our economy. That’s what we’re shooting for here.

Jose Zozaya:Anything within these discussions, Senator, that heartens you as far as a system change? You mentioned: the agents in Lukeville, their daily duty is not, as you said, it wasn’t to process these folks.That, perhaps, is someone else’s job description or qualification. Is there anything logistical in these discussions you feel like can make their job easier?Or at least, to your point, helps us go about our business with immigration the way we say we should as a country?Sen. Mark Kelly:

Im not going to get into the details. I’m not going to preview what’s actually in there, but I will say, that there are some changes that I think Border Patrol will look at (as) favorable and make it easier for them to do their job, and that’s one thing we need.

Jose Zozaya:”How responsive or communicative would you say are the President or people who have leadership roles that make a difference on this issue of immigration? For Arizona, maybe for border states, (more broadly), it seems like state leaders, a lot of state leaders in Arizona, theres bipartisan agreement in, as you said: Lukeville should not have been closed. Is this a lesson do you think perhaps the White House can take to say, We should listen to you all a little bit more closely about how to manage these problems?Sen. Mark Kelly:

“With stuff that has to do with the border? Yeah, I mean, we have to deal with this every single day.

And it’s not just this administration, you know. Other administrations have been really challenged on, How do you deal with this?

The goal is not to have a port of entry closed again, like ever; bad for our economy in Arizona. It’s bad for the country.

So, when we get this legislation passed in the Senate, and I’m optimistic about getting something done, and if we get it eventually to the President’s desk for his signature, get it enacted… (Im confident) we’ll be in a better place than we are today.

Jose Zozaya:Best case scenario… that (you) all will get this signed, and I know (its) up to the House then to discuss, but your best-case timeline, what does that look like?Sen. Mark Kelly:

“This is not, you know, NASA or the Navy, where I spent 25 years. The Senate has some rules, that if NASA had similar rules, the rocket ship would never leave the launch pad.

So we’re challenged; we’ve got a challenging scheduling of legislation and getting it through, but I do feel good about this.

We also have a deadline coming up for keeping the government open. We should never shut down the government. We’ve got to get these appropriations bills and government funding completed by (Jan 19th) which is in a little over a week, so that’s going to complicate the efforts here.

I think we can do both of these things at the same time, and we should. My expectation here is, in the coming weeks or a month or so, we’ll have something that we can get done and hopefully get to the President’s desk.