WASHINGTON -- The president of the National ICE Council, which represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, said Wednesday that its members are being "shunned" by AFL-CIO labor federation President Richard Trumka and that he does not speak of them on immigration reform efforts.
"It's shocking," Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, said in a statement. "The last time I checked, all of the heavy hitters within immigration enforcement to include ICE, the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were all excluded by the AFL-CIO from policy planning and input -- and we're all AFL-CIO affiliates. With most of the nation's immigration enforcement experts at his fingertips, to include immigration officers, agents and attorneys, Trumka has refused our union input on comprehensive immigration reform."
He went on to say the White House has ignored the concerns of immigration agents.
The AFL-CIO, and Trumka himself, have long pledged support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country. But Crane's specific complaints were sparked by Trumka's comments to Yahoo News on Tuesday, when he said labor is "fully behind" reform efforts:
Unions "did have at one point some differences" on the issue, but "the entire labor movement is entirely behind this now," Trumka said. "We’ll be at the table the whole time this thing is being developed to make sure it meets the needs of workers." Once it’s drafted, he continued, "we’ll be pushing this thing [with a] full-fledged campaign" aimed at both public opinion and wary lawmakers.
Those statements were no surprise: the AFL-CIO has been open about its advocacy on the issue, and is working with the Chamber of Commerce on ideas that both sides can support for the future flow of workers.
The AFL-CIO declined to comment on the ICE Union statement.
There has been some tension between the AFL-CIO and the ICE Union in the past over a lawsuit filed by a group of ICE agents against the Obama administration. Those agents accused the administration of blocking them from doing their jobs by implementing policies such as prosecutorial discretion and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that allow some undocumented immigrants to be stay in the country if deemed low priority.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), an author of the hardline SB 1070 immigration law in Arizona, is representing the ICE agents, and Numbers USA, a group that advocates for reduction of immigration, is funding the suit.
"These agents are working with some of the most anti-immigrant forces in the country, forces that have long sowed division and destruction," Trumka said in a statement in August.
On Friday, the ICE agents' case was allowed to move forward after a judge ruled they have standing to sue the federal government.
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"Gang Of Eight"
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/immigration-reform-framework_n_2566494.html?1359387491">bipartisan group of senators</a> have come together to address the issue of immigration reform. The group consists of four members of each party -- Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their framework was announced Monday.
Pathway To Citizenship
A <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/142894316/Bipartisan-immigration-plan">"tough but fair" </a> road to citizenship is the main tenet of the bipartisan immigrant plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the most significant supporter of this idea, giving hope to those who doubt Republicans will support the plan.
The New Process
The new process of obtaining citizenship would be just that -- a process. Probationary citizens would be required to pass an additional background check, learn English, pay taxes and show that they have a history of employment to apply for permanent residence and a green card. Undocumented immigrants will receive green cards after all probationary citizens have been processed, ensuring that documented immigrants are addressed first. Separate processes would be designed for young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and agricultural workers.
Enforcement, Then Green Cards
The first goal, before any green cards are handed out, is to "demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays," the senators say in their framework.
Enhance Border Security And Drones
Emphasizing enforcement measures, the framework calls for increased boarder control, including more border agents and aerial surveillance and drones. A new system would be added to ensure visa stays are being adhered to, along with a commission of border lawmakers to aid legislation.
Increase Employment Verification
The senators have proposed to create an "effective employment verification system" that would help prevent identity theft while allowing employers to feel secure in hiring documented immigrants.
No Benefits For Probationary Immigrants
Immigrants who are in the probationary category would not be eligible for federal benefits in the senators' framework. This addresses the concern that public benefits, particularly health-related ones, are being spent on undocumented immigrants.
An Easier Path For 'The Best And Brightest'
The framework recognizes that a different sort of process would be needed for "the best and brightest," including highly-skilled workers and those with higher education. This has been previously addressed in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/stem-act-white-house-immigration_n_2207279.html">STEM Act </a> which was ultimately vetoed by the White House.