Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) has reaffirmed his promise to rush an immigration reform legislative package through the U.S. Senate when Congress returns from recess, amid waning progress on a grand bargain deal and severe concerns cropping up at the border.
Leahy sent a response letter Tuesday to Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan so-called “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform. Rubio had asked Leahy for an open and transparent immigration reform process.
Rubio joined every Senate Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee except two, demanding Leahy hold more hearings and public markups so the American people can get behind any immigration reform bill and so people know what is in it before it is passed. GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who are “Gang” members in addition to being on the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not join their colleagues’ call for transparency.
Leahy said he think Rubio wants to “slow the process for consideration of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Leahy said that the “Gang of Eight” has met “behind closed doors,” and while he has “been waiting for language this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee has already held several widely-attended hearings to examine the urgent need for” immigration reform.
Leahy said to Rubio that while he will “consider” holding a hearing, he would not guarantee one. “By this summer, I hope that all members of the Senate will be able to vote for or against comprehensive immigration reform, and that each member will take into consideration the significant process that the Senate Judiciary Committee will have completed,” Leahy added.
“The American people have grown tired of the endless filibusters that occur regularly in the Senate,” Leahy continued. “I look forward to working with you to overcome such obstruction in the weeks to come. To this end, I would like to find time to sit down and discuss this with you and all the members of the gang of eight as soon as the Senate is back in session.”
Leahy’s letter comes as reports indicate the U.S.-Mexico border is not secure.
In a Monday report, Townhall’s Katie Pavlich detailed how illegal alien crossings into the United States have skyrocketed since immigration reform talks began earlier this year. “We’ve seen the number of illegal aliens double, maybe even triple since amnesty talk started happening,” a Border Patrol agent told Pavlich. “A lot of these people, although not the majority, are criminals or aggravated felons. This is a direct danger to our communities.”
In a followup story on Tuesday, Pavlich uncovered video and photographs of illegal aliens working for Mexican drug cartels crossing the border carrying guns and drugs. Multiple Border Patrol agents, Pavlich wrote, have “warned there will be an increase in bandit and rip crew activity, an increase in criminals entering the United States, including terrorists, and that cartels will continue to set up a strong foot hold in America if the proper resources and manpower are not allocated to secure the border.”
“When I hear Janet Napolitano say the border is secure, I just laugh because she has no idea what we go through on daily basis,” a Border Patrol agent based near Laredo, Texas told Pavlich. “Now with Washington coming back and saying we’re going to have you use less equipment and more furloughs and on top of that we’re going to stretch your shifts, there’s no way we can ever secure the border.”
Pavlich’s reports came out as the Associated Press discovered in an investigative piece published Monday that the Mexican drug cartels are indeed “operating deep inside the U.S.”
The AP conducted a “wide-ranging” review of “federal court cases and government drug-enforcement data, plus interviews with many top law enforcement officials,” and concluded that the drug cartels “have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the U.S.”
“Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast,” the AP’s Michael Tarm wrote.
Even with this increased risk when it comes to border security, “Gang of Eight” member Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants inside the United States before handling any border security. “So look, we’ve come to a basic agreement, which is that first, people will be legalized,” Schumer said on Meet The Press on Sunday. “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.”
No legislative text for an immigration reform deal has even been presented yet, and Rubio warned over the weekend that reports that a deal had been reached were “premature.”