The Washington Times - April 13, 2013, 09:12AM

The chief of the labor union that represents immigration agents on Friday accused the AFL-CIO, his parent organization, of “threatening” those who oppose legalizing illegal immigrants.

Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents ICE agents and which is part of the AFL-CIO, said he was worried about threats of “union retribution” against lawmakers who vote against legalization this year.

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His criticism underscores a fascinating split within the labor community as Congress prepares to debate immigration. Most labor unions back the push to grant legal status and citizenship rights to illegal immigrants, but the unions representing immigration law enforcement are generally opposed to that policy.

Mr. Crane has been particularly outspoken in challenging the leadership of AFL-CIO, the umbrella union that has been part of the negotiations to try to write a bill. While AFL-CIO has been involved, Mr. Crane charges that his requests to be part of talks have been rebuffed by both the White House and the so-called Gang of Eight senators that is writing a bill.

Mr. Crane pointed to recent comments from the AFL-CIO’s director of immigration, Ana Avendano, who told the Financial Times this week that they “will steamroller” any politician who tries to block citizenship for illegal immigrants.

“In effect, AFL-CIO leadership is threatening to target lawmakers who oppose the very bill the AFL-CIO helped secretly write behind closed doors,” Mr. Crane said.