Sessions, Vitter slap 'amnesty' tag on Gang of Eight immigration plan

Buoyed by the support of conservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the Republican authors of the Senate plan argue that the linking of border enhancements to a path to citizenship means that no one in the country illegally would be eligible for citizenship before concrete security benchmarks are met.

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But Sessions and Vitter criticized provisions in the bill that would grant a provisional legal status to some illegal immigrants before the benchmarks are met.

“We’re very concerned that this bill is the same fundamentally flawed model from the past,” Vitter said. “It’s immediate amnesty with a promise of enforcement.”

The senators and the law enforcement officials also criticized the Senate group for dodging meetings with their representatives even as they met behind closed-doors with interest groups supportive of immigration reform.

They challenged assertions by the Obama administration that the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure and that deportations of illegal immigrants have increased significantly.

Yet in terms of sheer presentation, the opponents’ event paled in comparison to the official rollout, which featured the full bipartisan Group of Eight senators and attracted prominent outside backers from both sides of the political aisle, including conservative activist Grover Norquist and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Sessions and Vitter left their own event before taking questions to make Senate votes, leaving Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) to field inquires from a handful of remaining reporters.

Sessions returned after the event ended to speak with reporters.