Politics
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tour the Nogales port of entry during their tour of the Mexico border with the United States on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tour the Nogales port of entry during their tour of the Mexico border with the United States on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)  

UPDATED: Senate Judiciary Republicans call for immigration reform transparency from ‘Gang of 8′ Republicans

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

Senate Judiciary Committee members Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz called on Republican members of the “Gang of Eight” senators currently shaping immigration reform legislation to bring additional transparency to their negotiations, in a letter released Friday.

“As members of the Judiciary Committee, we believe it is critical that the public and the entire Senate body be given adequate time to read and analyze the contents of any immigration bill put forth by the Majority,” Senate Judiciary ranking member Grassley and three of his Republican colleagues wrote in a letter to the four GOP “gang” members. “Our Committee has had only three hearings in recent months, barely touching on issues involving enforcement, border security or the creation of a temporary worker program.”

In the letter to Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, John McCain and Lindsey Graham dated April 4, the four Senate Judiciary members pointed out that the committee’s chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy has indicated that he might only hold a single hearing on the legislation before marking up the bill.

“As members of this Committee who apparently will soon have to vote on this legislation, we need to be consulted,” they wrote.

The four went on to lay out their concerns with not only the process but the other instance in the immigration debate which have served to “erode” the faith the American people have in their government’s commitment to enforce the law.

“In the last four years, we have received very little cooperation in fulfilling our duty to conduct oversight. The policies of the Obama Administration, including the recent revelation that the administration refuses to establish a border security metric for fear that it would interfere with a legalization program, leave little doubt that this administration has no intention of cooperating with Congress,” they wrote. “These actions have further eroded the American people’s confidence that the government will carry out its duty to enforce the laws. We should not further test the faith of the American people by implementing a major overhaul of the immigration system that prioritizes legalizing law breakers over the long-term needs of the country.”

They added that in that same vein, recent comments from Gang of Eight member Charles Schumer — that they group has “come to a basic agreement, which is that first, people will be legalized. In other words, not citizens, but they’ll be allowed to work, come out of the shadows, travel. Then, we will make sure the border is secure” — has caused them further concern.

“Going forward, we expect to hear from experts on each of the proposals being put forth, including but not limited to a new temporary worker program, border security, interior and worksite enforcement, and the impact of a large-scale legalization on American workers and taxpayers,” they added in their letter. “We hope you will stand with us to ensure that all viewpoints are heard before the Committee considers any immigration legislation.”

“The time for transparency has come,” they declared. “Given the Majority’s rushed timetable, we believe it is time for you to discuss the status of your negotiations, disclose what concessions have been made, and provide details to members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Republican Caucus.”

Grassley, Sessions, Lee and Cruz went on to request that the GOP gang member’s staff brief Republican committee staff about the negotiations no later than Monday close of business.

“We also request that you personally discuss your group’s proposal with the entire caucus early next week so that all members can raise concerns and questions before the deal is finalized,” they concluded their missive. “Finally, we hope you will pledge your commitment to protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate by demanding a full, orderly and open debate process during Committee consideration and when the bill is sent to the full Senate.”

Update, 7:05 p.m.: Sen. Rubio’s office today sent the following response letter to the Senate Republicans who inquired about the comprehensive bill’s transparency.

April 5, 2013

Dear Colleagues:

I have received your timely letter regarding recent immigration reform efforts. I appreciate your interest in this important issue and I share your position about the need for a robust and public debate. As you know, I have been forceful and clear in my position that the Judiciary Committee hold multiple hearings on the topic and be given ample time to consider any immigration proposal. This is a position I reiterated last weekend in a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy, which I have attached for your reference.

It has always been my view that any proposal crafted by the bipartisan group working on immigration serve as a starting point, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I can assure you that the work we have done to date has been no different – and therefore no more or less secretive – than any other process intended to develop legislation as a starting point for debate.

As you know, at the very beginning of this process, my office issued a standing invitation for the entire Republican conference to send me input and ideas on immigration reform. In fact, I specifically asked for proposals on border security, workplace enforcement and a process to handle the millions of people currently in this country who are in violation of our immigration laws. To date, we have received no response from any of your offices. Nevertheless, as I have shared with several of you personally, I have used previous immigration-related bills you and others have filed in the past to ensure your views were reflected in the legislation. That includes a conversation I had with Senator Sessions during the budget votes, where I personally informed him that his amendment to prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants was consistent with the proposal being worked on by the bipartisan group.

Nonetheless, I have been clear in stressing, both in the bipartisan group and publicly, that the most important part of the process is what comes after the legislation is introduced. I believe strongly that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it. Earlier this week, I requested and received permission to brief the entire Republican conference during our policy lunch next week. I look forward to briefing you at that meeting. In addition, I have asked my staff to brief the staff of every Republican member of your committee once the details of our starting point proposal are finalized. Rest assured I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have. In the meantime, if you or your staff has any specific ideas on immigration reform, please contact us as soon as possible.

My hope is that the work of the bipartisan group is drawing to a close, and we will soon have a specific proposal drafted and ready for review by the entire Senate. Like all legislation of this magnitude, it should be reviewed and scrutinized thoroughly by numerous interested parties well before the first vote is taken.

Let me reiterate, this proposal will be a starting point. Assuming the majority follows regular order, as members of the committee of jurisdiction, I expect you to have ample opportunity to review, comment and amend as you see fit. If the majority does not follow regular order, you can expect that I will continue to defend the rights of every senator, myself included, to conduct this process in an open and detailed manner.

Sincerely,
Marco Rubio

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