With an influential group of eight senators nearing completion on a comprehensive immigration bill, tensions are rising over the issue, with key senators feuding and the union representing immigration agents demanding to be heard.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee dueled over whether there is a “rush” to complete an immigration bill, as the “Gang of Eight” signaled they would be ready to announce their bill after the Senate returns from recess.
Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama cautioned Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont against “a rush to pass an amnesty bill before the American people know what’s in it.”
“It seems the chairman is arguing we can put a bill on the floor two weeks after the Gang of Eight potentially produces legislation in early April,” Sessions said in a statement provided to Newsmax.
“The chairman’s suggestion that we don’t need hearings on this new proposal because we have held immigration hearings in the past misses the entire point,” Sessions said. “The massive proposal being cobbled together by a group of senators in secret must be independently judged and reviewed by the Judiciary Committee in the full light of day.”
Sessions’ statement was in response to a testy private letter from Leahy.
“I hope it is not your intention to discredit the process we undertake in the Judiciary Committee before we begin,” Leahy wrote to Sessions. “I intend to proceed to comprehensive immigration reform with all deliberate speed.”
Negotiations with the eight senators were left in limbo last Friday as Congress went into a two-week recess, but senators on both sides have signaled they were open to compromise over issues such as wages for new low-skilled workers that have split business and labor groups. They were finalizing details on a bill this week that they plan to publicize by April 8.
President Barack Obama weighed in Wednesday as well, saying last-minute obstacles are “resolvable” and predicting Congress could pass historic legislation by the end of the summer.
In back-to-back interviews with Spanish-language television networks, Obama repeatedly voiced confidence in a bipartisan Senate group that appears to be on the cusp of unveiling a draft bill.
“If we have a bill introduced at the beginning of next month as these senators indicate it will be, then I’m confident that we can get it done certainly before the end of the summer,” Obama told Telemundo.
Meanwhile, Chris Crane, president of the union representing immigration and customs agents, appealed this week to have his member’s concerns heard by the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators, saying his group has been ignored by the White House.
“We would hope that the nation’s chief executive would be willing to meet with the immigration officers who risk their lives every day to uphold the rule of law,” said Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council (ICEC).
Crane made his plea for the union’s concerns to be heard before the process is completed, charging that while “powerful businesses and amnesty advocates have a seat at the table, our officers who are charged with protecting the public safety are apparently not welcome.”
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