Sessions urges colleagues to ask how immigration reform will affect workers

Sessions said he has asked authors of the comprehensive immigration reform bill — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — exactly how many illegal immigrants would gain legal status under the bill. He said he has not gotten a straight answer, which concerns him because he doesn’t think there's enough job growth to support the new workers.

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“I’ve been concerned for some time that the numbers [of illegal immigrants who would get legal status] are too large,” Sessions said. “We don’t have the jobs created to sufficiently employ them. It would only have a negative effect on American workers.”

Sessions serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which started the mark-up process of the bill last week and is expected to continue the work throughout May.

The bipartisan group of eight senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced S. 744, which would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration.

Some Republicans have complained that the legislation is being rushed through, and that it would provide amnesty for illegal residents before strengthening border enforcement.

Sessions also expressed concern that if the more than 11 million people residing illegally within the United States are given citizenship, they would then be allowed to apply for better jobs that don’t require “under the table” payment. He said this would mean companies could lower wages and unemployment levels would rise.

“I’m asking if we can handle this,” Sessions said. “We really should think about that. … Don’t we owe it to our workers to look at that?”

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) comprise the Gang of Eight.

Sessions has been critical of the bill since it was announced that the Gang of Eight was working on legislation. Rubio has called on Sessions and other critics to offer amendments during the committee process in order to improve the bill.

The bill is expected to reach the Senate floor in June.