The president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has asked to meet with eight senators working on immigration legislation before they unveil their proposal in two weeks.
“The purpose of this letter is to respectfully request an opportunity to meet with your group before you complete work on any immigration proposal and to share the experiences and concerns of the officers I represent,” union President Chris Crane wrote in a letter to the “gang of eight.”
The union has been critical of the Obama administration’s efforts to aid “Dreamers,” the children of illegal immigrants brought to this country as minors.
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.
The union argues that the policy undermines ICE’s ability to enforce duly enacted immigration law and that it has caused friction between the union and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as ICE Director John T. Morton.
“Given the record of Director Morton and Secretary Napolitano, we have zero confidence in promises of future enforcement,” the letter said.
One critic of the policy, Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, called on Morton to resign at a Judiciary Committee hearing in February.
“ICE officers working in jails are now under orders not to enforce our nation’s most fundamental immigration laws regarding illegal entry and overstay, and in similar practice are now forced to release illegal aliens encountered in jails who claim to be ‘Dreamers,’ without a requirement that the alien provide proof and without investigation,” Crane’s letter continued. “Most recently, ICE released approximately 2,000 criminal aliens back into U.S. communities without cause.”
He added: “We are concerned that ICE and DHS have not been forthright with the American public regarding the criminal records of many of the aliens it released. These practices and others like them clearly place the public at risk and should be investigated thoroughly before any major immigration changes are implemented.”
The bipartisan group of eight senators is close to finishing work on its bill and expects to unveil it the week of April 8.
Three of the senators — Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. — are visiting the border with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., another member of the immigration group. The four plan to hold a news conference in Nogales, Ariz., on Wednesday.
The group’s bill is expected to provide a path to citizenship for those currently here illegally, streamline the existing immigration system, reduce the hiring of undocumented workers and create a guest worker program.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.