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2 Arizona Republicans outline immigration priorities for Congress

(AP photo and Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation say Congress needs to tackle several priorities to address immigration-related issues along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally said Tuesday she wants Congress to address a 20-year-old agreement that limits how long asylum-seeking minors can be held in federal detention.

The Flores settlement is a 1997 agreement made by the government that set standards for unaccompanied minors in federal detention, including holding minors less than 20 days.

It stemmed from a series of lawsuits beginning in 1985 over the way children, including a 15-year-old Salvadoran girl named Jenny Flores, were treated in detention facilities.

“Only Congress can fix that and update the Flores (settlement) so we are allowed to continue to hold people as necessary as they go through their proceedings,” McSally told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

McSally said Congress should also revisit the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2008, which addresses migrant minors who are victims of trafficking.

“There’s a law in the books that we cannot return minors back to their country of origin unless they are from a country like Mexico or Canada,” McSally said.

“This was intended to be an anti-child trafficking law, but it’s actually being used by the cartels to traffic children. So we have to change that law that allows us to vet individuals and then safely return them to their country of origin.”

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, a fellow Republican, said he wants Congress to move immigration court proceedings along the border.

Out of the four immigration courts in Arizona, the one that is furthest south is in Tucson, about 65 miles from the border.

“I like that idea of moving the adjudication right to the border so we can see who has a legitimate claim of asylum, work with them,” Schweikert told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Tuesday.

Schweikert said moving the immigration services would also benefit the applicants.

“If you judge someone’s claim right there at the border, yes you may have where they want to appeal and go to the court, but you can stop this cascade effect of when someone is pulled into the system.”

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