Unions for 20,000 DHS Workers Oppose Senate Immigration Bill

Mike O'Brien

Two unions, which together represent 20,000 Department of Homeland Security employees, have joined forces to publicly oppose a sweeping immigration reform bill that is currently making its way through the Senate.

The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, which has 12,000 members who largely issue immigration documents, and the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents nearly 8,000 deportation agents, say the legislation raises too many public safety issues.

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The DHS workers have already been ordered to carry out broad and fast-paced immigration policy shifts under the Obama administration.

Deportation agents have been instructed to focus heavily on removing serious criminal offenders, while immigration officers have been told to accelerate their decisions on granting legal papers and reprieves from deportation.

Chris Crane, who leads the National ICE Council, has been one of the most vociferous opponents of the immigration bill.

Mr. Crane wrote to Congress on May 9 saying the Senate bill was tailored to meet the demands of "special interests," and calling it "a dramatic step in the wrong direction" on public safety and interior enforcement.

He said the proposal would give administration officials too much discretion in choosing which immigration laws to enforce.

Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, backed up those concerns on Monday.

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He said the bill does not address the issue of his officers being "pressured to rubber stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation."

The bill also doesn’t do enough to address the problem of student visa overstays, Mr. Palinkas said.

He added that the bill fails to fix the "insurmountable bureaucracy," which often prevents USCIS officers from coordinating with ICE agents in cases that should have their involvement.

Mr. Palinkas said: "We are the very backbone of our nation’s immigration system and will be at the center of implementing any immigration reform."

The Senate bill proposes to offer legal status and eventually citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, tighten border security, and speed visa reviews for more than four million immigrants who have applied legally and are waiting in backlogs.

Some of the issues covered in this article will be discussed at IDGA’s 4th Annual Border Management Southwest summit later this month. For details, go to www.BorderSouthwest.com