WASHINGTON - A labor union that represents federal officers who vet immigration applications has decided to oppose the immigration overhaul winding through the Senate, saying provisions in the bill could lead to fraud.
The proposed legislation would "damage public safety and national security and should be opposed by lawmakers," Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, said Monday.
The union announced its opposition as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spent a fourth day debating proposed amendments to the bipartisan bill.
Senators considered changes to provisions for granting asylum to refugees, increasing the number of judges and staffers at immigration courts, and creating a pathway to legal status for millions of immigrants. The Judiciary Committee could vote on the bill as early as Wednesday.
The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council represents about 12,000 workers and officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that would process potentially millions of applications by immigrants seeking legal status if the bill is approved.
"We are the very backbone of our nation's immigration system and will be at the center of implementing any immigration reform," Palinkas said in a statement.
He added that the union was not consulted by the eight senators who took the lead on writing the bill.
Palinkas expressed concern that agents would be required to approve hundreds of thousands of applications without requiring face-to-face interviews or taking other steps to prevent fraud.
Under administrative changes made by the Obama administration, adjudications officers are "pressured to rubber-stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation," he said.
The agency has been turned into an "approval machine" in recent years, Palinkas said.
Another union, the National ICE Council, which represents about 8,000 deportation officers and other staffers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, previously announced its opposition to the bill.
Palinkas added his name Monday to a letter written by Chris Crane, the president of the National ICE Council, and signed by 26 sheriffs from eight states.
The letter, written last month, is addressed to members of Congress and states that the Senate bill "fails to meet the needs of the law enforcement community and would, in fact, be a significant barrier to the creation of a safe and lawful system of immigration."