By Alexander Bolton - 06/27/13 11:06 AM EDT
Critics of the Senate immigration bill are focusing their fire on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ahead of a vote on final passage as early as Thursday.
Peter Kirsanow, a Republican-appointed member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, warned Rubio in a letter Wednesday that the Senate immigration bill will be a disaster for low-skilled workers.
“The assurances of the bill’s proponents that the bill will somehow help the economy obscure copious evidence that the bill will wreak enormous damage to the employment prospects of American workers who have already seen their wages and employment rates plummet over the last several years,” wrote Kirsanow, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush and served from 2006 to 2008 on the National Labor Relations Board.
Kirsanow argued the bill will “act as a magnet” and attract as many as 33 million additional immigrants over the next decade.
The Congressional Budget Office projected the bill would depress wages by 0.1 percent by 2023 but increase them by 0.5 percent by 2033, compared to current law.
Chris Crane, the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, which represents immigration and customs enforcement agents, also sent a critical letter to Rubio Wednesday.
Crane warned Rubio that his bill would perpetuate the “de facto amnesty” of illegal immigrants by failing to secure the interior of the U.S.
“It is not a border issue. It cannot and will not end as a result of increased border security. It must be resolved through increased interior enforcement,” Crane wrote.
The Senate on Wednesday adopted an amendment to double the number of patrol agents and authorize the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. But a majority of Republican senators say they are skeptical the so-called border surge will guarantee a stop to future illegal immigration.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) argued on the Senate floor that the bill’s E-Verify requirements, which would mandate that employers check the legal status of hires, needs to be strengthened to substantially reduce illegal immigration.
Opponents of the legislation note that 40 percent of illegal immigrants overstay their visas.
Portman was denied a vote Wednesday on his amendment to bolster the E-Verify program although Democrats said he declined an offer to add it to the bill during private negotiations.
Crane says the bill does little to equip law enforcement agents to track this segment of the illegal immigrant population.
“While visa overstays represent nearly half of the overall immigration problem facing our broken immigration system, your legislation does nothing to increase enforcement of these violations,” he wrote.
Rubio has also come under criticism from notable conservatives, including former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who wrote that a vote for the Senate bill was “beyond disingenuous.”
Rubio defended himself from conservatives’ criticism in a floor speech Wednesday.
Rubio said he understood their concerns but noted the legislation includes “important reforms that conservatives have been trying to get for years.”
These include giving work skills and other merit-based criteria more weight in the visa application process and augmenting manpower and surveillance equipment along the southern border.
“To hear the worry, anxiety and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial for me,” he said.