Representative and Senate Republican candidate for Arizona Senator Martha McSally made the claim that her Democratic challenger Kyrsten Sinema backed a bill that supported human trafficking.
Is McSally correct?
Did Sinema support a bill that would enable human trafficking?
With Arizona becoming one of the key swing states for the Democrats to potentially flip the Senate, the race between McSally and Sinema has escalated as November 6th draws nearer.
One of the more important issues for voters in the border state is illegal immigration, and in a September 16th interview with Fox News, McSally said that Sinema is backing a bill that supports human trafficking.
“My opponent and every Democrat got on a bill that essentially says if you cross the border illegally, and you have a kid with you and you commit a crime, another crime within 100 miles of the border, you can’t be arrested,” McSally said. “This is essentially encouraging child trafficking and that’s what my opponent supported.”
Additionally, McSally said the Republican party in contrast was working on a similar bill that would not promote what she thinks is modern-day-slavery.
Is McSally right? Did Sinema sign on to a human trafficking bill?
The Keep Families Together Act was introduced in response to end President Donald Trump’s policy that caused the separation of immigrant families.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and would prevent a child illegally immigrating into the U.S. to be removed from any parent or legal guardian they came with.
However, the bill also set exceptions that would allow children to be separated from their guardians, including:
- The child is a victim of trafficking or is at significant risk of becoming a victim of trafficking;
- There is a strong likelihood that the adult is not the parent or legal guardian of the child; or
- The child is in danger of abuse or neglect at the hands of the parent or legal guardian, or is a danger to themselves or others.
The bill also requires a child welfare organization to approve of the separation within 48 hours and give permission to separate the child from a parent if it’s in their best interest.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, an associate professor and director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University, said that she believes the bill does not aide human traffickers.
“This is much less to do with sexual exploitation and more to do with separating families,” she said.
Torunn Sinclair, a spokesperson for McSally’s campaign, said that the bill would diminish federal enforcement of immigration and make claiming children an incentive for traffickers, even if they aren’t theirs to claim.
However, David Kyle, associate professor of sociology at University of California-Davis, said that this will be something that border officers receive training to spot, and parents or guardians will be required to prove their relationship to the child.
“No matter how the law is written, law enforcement officials have laws they can invoke if there is a suspicion that the child is not with their legal guardian or parent,” Kyle said. “I don’t think anything in the bill would undercut those laws and clearly supports exceptions based on those suspicions.”
While he did raise questions about how the “independent child welfare expert” leaves him wondering how the bill would work in a practical standpoint, Kyle said that “on the face of it, I don’t see the bill facilitating child trafficking.”
Fact or Fiction
McSally’s claim about whether Sinema supported a bill that would help human traffickers is about as unsubstantiated as you can get. The bill has included provisions that would allow separation for suspected human trafficking victims and have that signed off with certified professionals dealing with children. The fact that the bill so clearly states this makes McSally’s statement false.
Sinema has not released any statement regarding this claim.