The union that represents the people who would have to decide who gets legalized under any new immigration law said in a letter Tuesday that the Obama administration is not ready to handle the influx of applications.
And Kenneth Palinkas, the president of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, which represents the 12,000 immigration officers and staff who work at USCIS, warned House Republicans that even flirting with a limited legalization such as just granting citizenship rights to so-called Dream Act immigrants could lead to problems.
“I cannot stress enough how ill-equipped USCIS is to engage in the sort of far-reaching plans before Congress right now — including both the enormous legalization programs proposed as well as the historic increases in both immigrant and non-immigrant visas,” Mr. Palinkas wrote.
He addressed his letter to House GOP leaders who are trying to figure out how far to go in pushing legalization. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, both Virginia Republicans, have said they will introduce a bill that would legalize Dream Act immigrants, who were illegally brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and who are considered among the most sympathetic immigration cases.
But Mr. Palinkas said even if the GOP lawmakers try to limit their bill by setting an age limit and residency requirements, he expects the Obama administration would act unilaterally to expand the law.
“What is to stop the Administration from simply issuing another round of non-enforcement orders (written or oral) that would eviscerate any attempted limitations in your bill?” he wrote.
Mr. Palinkas also addressed his letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who has taken a lead role in trying to sell House conservatives on a broad immigration bill, much as Sen. Marco Rubio did in the Senate debate.
House Republicans are facing increasing pressure from business groups and major GOP donors to pass a bill soon.
On Tuesday, nearly 100 donors and major former officials in the Bush administration sent a letter pleading with House Republicans to pass a bill legalizing illegal immigrants. They said not only could that help them win the political support of immigrant voters, but it would help the economy.
But the immigration issue continues to roil Republicans, with many rank-and-file voters rejecting anything that seems to them to resemble an amnesty for those who are breaking immigration laws.
And rank-and-file Republicans in the House fear that by passing any immigration legislation, the GOP is setting itself up for negotiations with the Senate on a final deal that could go well beyond whatever the House passes.
Mr. Palinkas, in his letter, said that’s a real fear.
“I would therefore urge all House lawmakers not to conference with the dangerous Senate bill that will produce a totally deficient comprehensive proposal, but instead to work with USCIS adjudicators to produce responsible reforms that enhance the integrity and security of our immigration system,” he wrote.