The union for immigration agents slammed the immigration bill being drafted by the Senate’s “gang of eight” because it does not focus on enforcing immigration laws in the nation’s interior.
Chris Crane, the president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, said in conference call Wednesday that “the plan of the gang of eight appears to be legalization, or amnesty first, and then enforcement, that is a big problem for us.”
The Senate group is hoping to unveil its bill next week. It is expected to create a path to legalization, and eventually citizenship, for current undocumented immigrants that meet certain criteria. The path would be available once the border meets to-be-determined measure and is declared sufficiently secure.
But Crane complained there has been no mention from the Senate immigration group, or the president, “for stronger interior enforcement.”
“We fully support stronger border enforcement, but we know, we know, that much stronger interior enforcement is needed,” Crane said. It “continues to be ignored by the president and others because this is more about amnesty, or legalization, than truly addressing illegal immigration and ending it.”
Crane believes the nation will find itself in the same position it currently does, with millions of undocumented immigrants, in the future if current laws are not enforced. That’s a scenario similar to what happened after passage of an immigration policy overhaul in 1986.
The union, the National ICE Council, represents more than ICE 7,000 agents and staff. ICE is charged with enforcing immigration law within the interior of the nation.
Crane noted that the union remains “open to anything that anyone would like to throw on the table in terms of immigration reform as long as that idea is realistic and appears that it will work; that it will effectively address the problems of our broken immigration system across the spectrum. Our focus is on the enforcement part of this.”
The union’s cause has been championed by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — an opponent of a comprehensive immigration overhaul — who has been critical of the gang’s closed-door process. Sessions has warned Senate Democrats against seeking to quickly ram it through the Senate.
In a nod to Republican criticism the Democratic-drafted health care law enacted in 2010, Sessions said Tuesday in a written statement that Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Barack Obama “once again want Congress to pass a far-reaching bill before the American people know what’s in it.”
Eyes on ICE
Tension has been growing between the union and administration officials — including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE director John T. Morton — as the White House has sought to reduce deportations of the children of illegal immigrants, or so-called “Dreamers.”
In lieu of winning passage of the DREAM Act, which would establish a path to citizenship for some of those children, the White House last summer issued an executive action ordering ICE to only deport illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
The White House policy directs ICE to defer action on people who were brought to the United States as children younger than 16, do not present a risk to national security or public safety and meet several other key criteria. Those people would also be authorized to work.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.