The Senate 'gang of eight' carefully crafted its immigration bill alongside countless interest groups from the Western Growers Association to the Chamber of Commerce.
But two major immigration groups who represent thousands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers say they were not consulted and their concerns were ignored as the bill was drafted. Now they have come out swinging against the Senate's latest attempt at immigration reform.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Council President, Kenneth Palinkas, says the immigration bill will "damage public safety and national security."
He urged lawmakers to vote 'no' on the bill, saying it would grant legal status to millions who "have committed serious immigration and criminal offenses."
"This legislation fails to address some of the most serious concerns the U.S. CIS Council has about the current system which Congress must address," Palinkas said.
Palinkas is worried that the legislation will spawn more bureaucratic red tape, while simultaneously forcing processing agents to become "approval machine[s]," requiring them to "rubber stamp" immigration applications without the authority to practice reasonable discretion or ability to consult with ICE agents.
"While we believe in treating all people with respect, we are concerned that this agency is tasked with such a vital security mission that is too greatly influenced by special interest groups – to the point that it no longer properly performs its mission," Palinkas said in released statement.
The onslaught of opposition may put a damper on the bill's relatively smooth route through the Senate's Judiciary Committee, but pundits say it's not a total buzz kill.
"The opposition is not good news, but I don't think it is insurmountable," says Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a coalition of small business owners who are working for a more streamlined immigration system. "A lot of Republican members of Congress are concerned. They don't want to say 'yes' to immigration reform now and find themselves in the same position in 10 years. This plays into many members' worst fears, and it puts pressure on the bills proponents."
The backlash came Monday as the Senate Judiciary Committee continued to move through 300 amendments. So far, the general mission of the immigration bill has remained intact, and the gang's bill has survived without any tacked-on poison pills.
Along the way, more than 15 GOP amendments have been added to the original plan to sweeten the deal for moderate Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who are on the fence about supporting the reform. The gang of eight is hoping to attract upwards of 70 'yes' votes to send a strong message to the GOP-controlled House that the legislation is truly a bipartisan reform package.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan working group in the House of Representatives announced it struck a deal on a more conservative package that would give the country's 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally a chance at legal status and establishes stricter border triggers.
The bill will officially be released in June.