The chief of the union representing immigration agents and officers told Congress on Monday that illegal immigrants had more say-so in drafting the new Senate immigration bill than the government’s own law enforcement agents.
His testimony capped off an emotionally charged day that saw a former illegal immigrant plead for a full path to citizenship and saw lawmakers heatedly debate whether the Boston Marathon bombing should spur Congress to speed up or to put the brakes on the push to pass a bill.
Critics took aim from all sides. Some said the guest-worker program the bill envisions is too small to handle businesses’ needs, while a former congressman pleaded for lawmakers to treat gay couples the same as opposite-sex married couples for immigration purposes something this bill doesn’t do.
The complaints underscored the tricky path the immigration bill will have to weave through Congress.
Some immigrant-rights advocates testified the bill cuts down too much on families being able to bring siblings into the country.
But the chief complaints came from those who want to see a crackdown instead of legalization including Christopher Crane, chief of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the union that represents ICE agents and officers.
Mr. Crane finally got a chance to tell Congress officially his concerns about the bill.
“Senators invite illegal aliens to testify before Congress,” he said. “But American citizens working as law enforcement officers within our nation’s broken immigration system are purposely excluded from the process.”
Mr. Crane was one of about 20 witnesses who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday the second hearing called to examine the Senate bill.
That legislation offers illegal immigrants legal status but withholds a full path to citizenship until the Homeland Security Department takes more steps to secure the border. The bill also rewrites but expands avenues for legal immigration.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano is slated to appear before a third hearing Tuesday after canceling a Friday appearance to handle the Boston Marathon bombing.
That attack has sparked questions regarding how quickly Congress should press ahead on immigration.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said Monday he thinks Congress should apply the brake.
“The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don’t use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs,” he wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “We should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system.”
But the Senate’s senior Democrat said it would be unfair to “exploit” last week’s attacks by holding illegal immigrants’ chance at citizenship hostage.
“Let no one be so cruel,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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