Law enforcement and federal immigration officials joined Sens. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and David Vitter (R., La.) on Capitol Hill Thursday to blast the "Gang of Eight’s" immigration reform legislation, describing it as "amnesty" that would put public safety at risk.
"Amnesty is amnesty. You call it what you want to call it," said Sam Page, the sheriff of Rockingham County, N.C.
National ICE council president Chris Crane said, "this bill will put the public at risk without a doubt" by failing to include tough border enforcement measures.
The Gang of Eight’s 844-page proposal includes a pathway to citizenship, which critics say would reward illegal immigrants and punish those who are attempting to immigrate to the United States legally. The bill’s supporters say it provides a difficult but achievable pathway to citizenship that will bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows.
"This bill is amnesty before enforcement," said Sessions at the press conference. "The day the bill passes, illegal immigrants will have the presumption of amnesty."
Vitter said the bill was a rehash of the previous amnesty policies that have failed to solve the illegal immigration problem.
"That fundamental model has failed in the past, and we’re concerned it will fail again," he said.
According to Crane, the Gang of Eight has not sought input from law enforcement officials, who he says are concerned the administration is intentionally undermining border security. Crane said he met with Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) earlier this week and asked him to hold off on the bill, but the group went ahead with the proposal anyway.
The Gang of Eight is a bipartisan group comprised of Sens. Rubio, Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), John McCain (R., Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.).
Schumer said he expects a vote on the bill by June. It would likely face a difficult path in the House as it stands.
Senate Republicans who oppose the bill are sympathetic to Rubio’s efforts but said Democrats were using him.
"Rubio’s in a tough spot," said one Senate Republican aide. "He clearly wants to do something significant to reform immigration, and I think all of his friends take him at his word. The problem is clearly Schumer, Durbin, Menendez, and the rest are not concerned at all about whether this legislation passes."
"We’re not shooting at him," added the aide. "This is a Schumer bill and we’re gonna fight it. And I guess he’s on the wrong side of the line so he’s going to get some shrapnel."