ICE agents: Strengthen enforcement measures in Senate immigration bill

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who helped draft the immigration legislation, and Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) are leading the Republican effort to strengthen its border security and enforcement provisions.


The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, a union representing 7,600 officers and agents, has sent a letter to Rubio and Cornyn raising concerns that their proposals do not do enough to empower law enforcement officials to do their jobs.

“I am concerned that the public commentary to date regarding your amendments has not included any mention of repairing ICE’s dismantled enforcement authorities and practices,” wrote Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council.

Crane warned the enforcement provisions of the immigration bill would be “doomed to fail” if it “does not empower ICE agents to enforce the laws.”

Rubio has met with immigration enforcement officers to hear their concerns.

"Sen. Rubio has met with Mr. Crane and other ICE officials, and we welcome their suggestions for how to improve the legislation. We all agree that the current immigration system is badly broken, which is why we're working to secure our borders, strengthen interior enforcement, and modernize our legal immigration system," said Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio.

Cornyn and Rubio support using biometric data to track visa exits. Nearly 40 percent of immigrants in the United States illegally overstay their visas.

But the immigration law officers’ union says that even if Republicans amend the broad bill to require biometric data tracking, agencies would still be underfunded.

“Even the complete implementation of a biometric entry/exit system would still result in millions of future visa overstays as ICE lacks not only the resources to enforce immigration laws, but its officers are increasingly prohibited by the administration from arresting and removing immigration violators,” the union wrote.

For example, the Obama administration has adopted a policy of deferring the deportation of immigrants without legal standing who came to the country at a young age. The House voted earlier this month to defund the policy action.

Immigration enforcement officers say the Senate immigration bill gives political appointees in the executive branch too much authority to shield immigrants from prosecution. The union complains it gives “virtually unchecked authority to executive branch officials to prevent future removals, including removals of criminal aliens."

Rubio and Cornyn have also raised worries that the bill gives to much discretion to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Rubio is working on an amendment that would add a more specific border security plan to the legislation, leaving less authority for the administration.