The president of the labor union that represents immigration enforcement agents said Wednesday that the immigration deal being worked on in secret by senators won't staunch illegal immigration and, at least in the near-term, will lead to a new flood of people trying to cross the border.
"We anticipate a run on the border, an increasing number of illegal immigrants coming into the United States, in the years to come," said Chris Crane, president of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents 7,500 ICE agents and officers.
Mr. Crane also said the eight senators working on a deal are missing a big part of the discussion because they have not talked to immigration enforcement officers and prosecutors about what is needed.
The so-called "Gang of Eight" is pushing to have an immigration deal done soon — possibly by early next week.
But even with the bill still unwritten, they already are sparring over exactly how much time should be devoted to pushing it through the Senate.
On Wednesday, the White House said there was so much debate the last time the Senate took up the issue in 2006 and 2007 that an extensive process isn't required this time around.
"This legislation in essence has been on the table and subject to debate in the United States Congress for many years now," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One. "The basic outlines of what has been under consideration and is being worked on by the Gang of Eight and has been proposed by the president reflects legislation that was considered in Congress, in 2006, 2007, I believe."
But key Republicans argue that half of current senators weren't in the chamber in 2007, and say the issue is too complex to try to jam through the chamber.
Indeed, in 2007 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to short-circuit floor debate, only to prompt a filibuster from Republicans who said the bill deserved to have a long amendment process.
Mr. Reid relented and brought the bill back to the floor with some amendments allowed, but the bill was again blocked — this time in a bipartisan filibuster.
Senators objected to the way the legal immigration system was being rewritten, and argued that the border needed to be secure before illegal immigrants were legalized.
Now, senators are once again facing both of those questions.
The eight negotiators working on a bill say they have solved the border security situation by giving illegal immigrants immediate legal status but withholding their full path to citizenship until after the borders are deemed secure.
But Mr. Crane, the ICE union chief, said he hasn't seen any details that suggest the borders can be brought under control, and he also said without better interior enforcement there will still be a flood of illegal immigration.
"This is more about amnesty or legalization than truly addressing illegal immigration or ending it," Mr. Crane told reporters on a conference call designed to rally opposition to the current direction of Senate negotiations.
Democrats are pushing for quick action because they believe they have political momentum after last year's elections, which saw Hispanic voters deliver an overwhelming share of votes to Mr. Obama's re-election bid.
And many Republican leaders say they want to see action this year, arguing the GOP needs to take this issue off the table.
But new polling Wednesday found that rank-and-file GOP voters don't support those plans.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that overall, 57 percent of Americans surveyed supported granting some sort of path to citizenship to illegal immigrants. But among Republicans, 60 percent rejected that idea.
The poll also found 80 percent of Americans support stricter border enforcement.
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