For Some in GOP, Immigration Reform Moving Too Fast

Sen. Jeff Sessions would like to be more involved in immigration reform.

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Some Republicans are nervous that the immigration sea change happening in their party is moving a little too quickly for their liking.

And the pace has been fairly remarkable. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was opposed to the DREAM Act just two years ago, is now a part of a bipartisan working group supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. And Tuesday, libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced that he could support a path to legalization for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

[BROWSE: Political cartoons on immigration reform]

But six senators warn that backroom deals and rapid-moving legislation is no way to fix the country's broken immigration system, and they are asking Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to put on the brakes.

"The last time Congress considered legislation of this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system, the negative consequences of which are only now coming to light," read a letter to Leahy delivered Tuesday.

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Ted Cruz (Texas), John Cornyn (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Mike Lee (Utah) are urging lawmakers to proceed with comprehensive immigration reform through regular order, call more committee hearings and slow down. They warn moving too quickly and depending on a small group of senators could easily backfire like it did in 2007.

"You are better off doing it in committee calling experts," Sessions says. "It is the same to me. It looks like the same special interest groups who are meeting in secret with a small group of Senators that met in 2007."

[READ: CPAC Reveals GOP Not on Same Immigration Page]

When asked if he felt left out, Sen. Sessions answered: "I don't [just] feel like it. I am left out. Everybody is left out."

The last time comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate was in the 1980s, and Sessions said the bill was not introduced until after the committee had done "100 hours of hearings with 300 witnesses before marking up a bill. "

The Senate "Gang of Eight" has not introduced an actual bill, just an outline, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has held multiple hearings on immigration reform and is likely to schedule more after the Easter recess.

But still, Sessions worries his party is flipping too fast and giving ground they shouldn't especially when it comes to the path to citizenship the "Gang of Eight's" proposal calls for.

"For people who have been here a long time, there is a compassionate need to figure out how to treat them fairly, but I do not believe we should give citizenship," Sessions says. "I don't believe there is any moral or legal responsibility to reward somebody who entered this country illegally every benefit you give to somebody who enters legally. "

Senators who are part of the "Gang of Eight," however, are motivated by the rapid way the party has changed its direction on immigration reform and are especially pleased to see conservative members like Paul support similar goals.

[READ: Rand Paul Calls for Immigration Reform]

"I think it is very helpful. He represents the libertarian corner of the party and having him embrace a path to citizenship is a constructive step forward for the party as a whole," says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "It helps to have people step out."

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., also applauded Paul's announcement.

Former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who returned to the Hill Tuesday to testify at a banking hearing, said the reality is that the legislation is moving more swiftly through the body and looks more radical than it did in the past because Republicans are trying to make up for major election losses.

"I think the climate is totally different than it was," Martinez says. "Elections have consequences. … The whole atmosphere on this issue has moved so quickly."

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