Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today formally introduced the Children Returning on an Expedited and Safe Timeline Act (CREST Act), which addresses the mounting humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied children (UAC) are being apprehended as they illegally cross into the United States.

“This legislation attends to the urgent humanitarian crisis on the border today while also addressing with the root of the problem, deterring future flows of unaccompanied children making the long and dangerous journey north,” said McCain. “This crisis will continue until the parents who paid thousands of dollars to smuggle their children north to the United States see plane-loads of them landing back at home – their money wasted.”

“While President Obama should be doing more to halt the flow of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Congress also needs to step up,” said Flake. “The McCain-Flake CREST Act would both stem the present tide and prevent future waves of children from making the dangerous journey north.”

In addition to Senators McCain and Flake, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK). 

Text of this legislation can be viewed here and a summary of its provisions is below.

 

SUMMARY: THE CHILDREN RETURNING ON AN EXPEDITED AND SAFE TIMELINE ACT (CREST ACT)

Amends the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA) to increase repatriation of unaccompanied children (UAC) from non-contiguous countries.

  • The CREST Act requires UAC from non-contiguous countries be given the same treatment as those from Mexico and Canada with respect to the option of voluntarily returning to their own country.
  • In addition, keeping in place the existing screenings, the CREST Act reforms the TVPA to require expedited removal of all undocumented immigrants that are stopped at the border attempting to enter the United States illegally, allowing law enforcement to return them to their home countries within days as opposed months or years.

Requires mandatory detention of UAC until their cases are fully adjudicated.

  • This Act requires UAC to be under the custody of CBP or HHS until they are repatriated or their immigration cases have arrived at an outcome that allows them to remain in the U.S.  Exceptions are made for non-federal custody in cases where the UAC is found to be a victim of trafficking, has special needs, or severe physical or mental health needs.  In those cases, they can be released to a biological parent that is legally present in the U.S., has submitted to a biometric criminal history check, is willing to face fines for a failure to appear in immigration court, and a safety and suitability study has been completed. 

Increases the number of immigration judges to hear cases and create a separate immigration docket to hear the cases of juveniles.

  • The CREST Act authorizes the hiring of 100 temporary immigration judges, 150 new immigration litigation attorneys in the ICE Field of Legal Operations, and 100 new asylum offices to reduce immigration case backlogs.
  • The Act prioritizes the swift resolution of cases involving unaccompanied minor children by requiring the creation of a separate juvenile docket in every immigration court in the United States and requiring the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to bring a resolution to immigration cases, from the issuance of a notice to appear through the exhaustion of appeals, within thirty days.

 

Increases the number of refugee applications by up to 5,000 for each of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

  • This CREST Act requires the administration to carry out in-country processing of refugee applications in these countries and provides funding for the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations at USCIS to fulfill these requirements. 

Conditions foreign aid on countries’ efforts to secure their borders.

  • This Act requires the President to certify that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are doing everything they can to prevent the illegal migration of unaccompanied minors or risk losing foreign aid assistance and assist in the repatriation of their citizens.

Increase penalties for human smuggling.

  • The CREST Act increases penalties for those engaging in human smuggling, including the smuggling of unaccompanied minors.

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