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Immigration opponents in Senate keep up the fight

Four opponents of the Gang of Eight immigration bill are keeping up their pressure as the full Senate prepares to consider the legislation next week, telling colleagues in a letter Tuesday that the bill “will leave our borders unsecure and our immigration system deeply dysfunctional.”

The letter is signed by four Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee  - Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa – who, along with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, voted against the bill as amended by the 18-member panel last month.   (Cornyn was not a signer of the circulated letter.)  

The four lawmakers have been pushing hard against the bipartisan compromise legislation, arguing that its central tenets were “predicated on a deal struck” before the Judiciary panel began the process of amending it.  The bill’s supporters did accept over 140 changes to the bill – many proposed by Republicans – but rejected proposals from both parties that they said would have disrupted the legislation’s delicate compromises between stakeholders like unions, business and immigrant rights groups. 

“The last thing this country needs right now is another 1,000-plus page bill that, like Obamacare, was negotiated behind closed doors with special interests,” the four senators wrote. “We want immigration reform to pass, but only if it actually fixes the broken system, rather than allowing the problems to grow and fester.” 

The legislation is expected to be considered on the Senate floor beginning next week, where senators on both sides of the aisle will continue to propose changes to it.

While some Republicans argue that the Gang of Eight bill should be heavily overhauled or defeated, others who helped negotiate the legislation warn of the policy and political consequences of opposing reforms to address the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Gang of Eight, told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday that the GOP is "toast" in the next presidential election if the party is blamed for the effort's failure. 

"From our party's point of view, if this thing falls apart and we get blamed because we're not practical, we created border security mechanisms that were unachievable, we tried to change the structure in a dramatic way and we get the blame, we're toast in 2016," he said. 

 

NBC's Kasie Hunt contributed to this report. 

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