Immigration Union Warns Republicans About Legalizing DREAMers

A Union Representing USCIS Employees Expressed Doubt to Top Republicans

By TED HESSON

July 31, 2013—

A union representing 12,000 federal immigration workers is warning top House Republicans against legalizing young undocumented immigrants.

The union is made up of employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which handles immigration paperwork.

In a letter sent on Tuesday to four Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Virginia) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), the union expressed worries about a Republican bill that would legalize DREAMers.

Since President Obama has already given deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants -- and bypassed Congress to do it -- the union worries he might similarly use his executive power to rework any Republican legislation once it's passed.

"What is to stop the Administration from simply issuing another round of non-enforcement orders (written or oral) that would eviscerate any attempted limitations in your bill?" wrote Kenneth Palinkas, the head of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council.

Cantor and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Virginia), the chairman of a committee that oversees immigration legislation, are currently drafting the KIDS Act, a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. Several groups representing young undocumented immigrants have come out against it.

The opposition to the bill from the immigration union isn't a surprise. The council was against a large-scale immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in late June. That bill would have created a pathway to citizenship for many of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, far beyond the scale of this Republican effort in the House.

What's driving the pushback from federal immigration workers? According to the letter, one of their problems is staffing.

"We lack the resources, staffing, and office space to fulfill our agency's mission and to ensure that the millions we admit into the country properly qualify for the immigration benefits they seek," Palinkas wrote. "Until our inadequate resources as USCIS employees are upgraded and the culture of the current Administration changes, U.S. citizens will continue to be put at needless risk."

He continues:

"Any reform must address these problems urgently -- including the need for more full-time permanent staff to pore through the millions of potential applications -- or we are simply ensuring a result that undermines our ability to create an immigration system with integrity."

If an immigration reform bill does pass Congress, it will undoubtedly lead to more work for an agency like USCIS. This letter appears to be a way to let Republicans know that the agency won't support a legalization bill -- even a limited one, drafted by conservatives -- without an increase in resources.