WASHINGTON–One of the leading Republicans pushing for amnesty in the Senate said leaked documents revealing the Obama administration has released thousand of immigrants with serious rap sheets from detention has set back efforts to pass a major immigration bill.
“This sets everything back. I don’t think many Americans want an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of a felony to stay in the country and sure as hell not released from jail,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Breitbart News.
Graham, a member of the “Gang of Eight” that helped push a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate last year, expressed anger at the Obama administration’s actions.
“It’s a terrible way to handle immigration,” he said. “You don’t let people out of jail who have been convicted of crimes — and these are crimes apart from violations of immigration law.”
At issue were new, leaked documents from the Department of Homeland Security showing more than 36,000 criminal immigrants were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year.
However, Graham’s likeminded partner, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), took a different approach, saying the new information underscores the need to pass a bill more than ever.
“If we had immigration reform they would be forced to spend the money to secure our border. What they are doing now, by doing these releases and stuff is basically circumventing the law,” McCain said in an impromptu interview with Breitbart News Tuesday.
McCain said that there are currently two choices, either the “unacceptable” status quo or passing immigration reform that requires border enforcement. When asked about people who say they do not have confidence future laws will be enforced given current laws are not, McCain said, “You use that philosophy then we should not be passing any laws.”
He did allow that “we need to find out who they are releasing and why.”
Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who voted for the Senate immigration bill, called the current state of immigration enforcement “pathetic.”
“Look everybody knows that I am for an immigration bill,” he told Breitbart. “I’ve worked really hard to get that done and I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t face it and get it done. But there is no excuse for people who have broken our laws and been in jail to get out without — just on that kind of a basis.”
Hatch noted that he believes the Senate immigration bill will help resolve the problems with the current immigration system, adding that he thinks that the bill could even be stronger if the House works with the Senate on it.
Still the Utah Republican acknowledged that lack of enforcement currently is a factor keeping many Republicans in the House from going along with reform. Nevertheless, the Hatch stressed the need to resolve the current immigration situation.
“There are too many really good people who are in limbo — there are some who aren’t so good too, who would like to just get an automatic citizenship even though they don’t deserve it. But the vast majority of people I know are basically decent, hard working people who love our country and who just want to be here because of the freedom alone,” he said.