Lawmakers heading the Republican push for immigration reform blasted President Barack Obama on Thursday for failing to meet with federal law enforcement officials even as his administration meets with illegal immigrants.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) sent a letter to the president on Thursday expressing concern that the White House has so far failed to respond to requests for a sit-down from the National ICE Council, which represents more than 7,000 U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers.
The council, a division of the AFL-CIO representing immigration enforcement agents, "requested a meeting with the Administration three months ago to weigh in on immigration policy and share their firsthand concerns over the breakdown of interior enforcement," according to the letter.
"To date, they have received no meeting invitation."
The letter is in accordance with GOP strategy on immigration reform: first, the nation’s borders must be secured and law enforcement must be free to actually enforce the law.
"To be effective any immigration reform bill must heed the warnings from our federal immigration agents," Sessions and Goodlatte wrote.
"Unfortunately, far from being included in the process, ICE officers have been shut out and have even had their day-to-day operations handcuffed by DHS officials to the point of being unable to carry out their sworn duties," the letter added.
Obama personally met with a group of illegal immigrants in the Oval Office on Tuesday to discuss immigration reform proposals.
Chris Crane, the National ICE Council’s president, said in a February letter to the president that "our union and its members have not been invited to participate in White House meetings concerning the crafting of a comprehensive immigration bill."
Actions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "prevent us from doing our jobs and enforcing duly enacted law," Crane said.
Some ICE agents have filed a lawsuit against DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, alleging that her policy of exercising "prosecutorial discretion" has prevented ICE from adequately carrying out its law enforcement responsibilities.
The council also co-wrote a letter on Monday to members of Congress claiming that Senate immigration reform legislation "fails to meet the needs of the law enforcement community and would, in fact, be a significant barrier to the creation of a safe and lawful system of immigration."
House Republicans share some of those concerns. Goodlatte and the House GOP leadership team said in a news release on Thursday that the House would not "simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes."
"Rather, through regular order, the House will work its will and produce its own legislation," the release said.
The statement specifically cited "border security" and "enforcement mechanisms" as two key challenges to be addressed by immigration reform legislation.