With the immigration debate heading to the U.S. Senate floor next week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined three other Republicans to ramp up criticism of the legislation.

In a five-page letter, the lawmakers launched a broad critique of the bill, saying it fails to adequately protect the border, rewards lawlessness and endangers national security. They also drew a comparison with the health care overhaul that’s been the target of Republican ire for the three years since it was signed into law.

“Americans expect their government to end the lawlessness, not surrender to it,” the letter said. It added the country should welcome legal immigrants but said the new legislation just delivers “empty promises.”

The immigration proposal, which includes border security provisions and a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, also overhauls the nation’s visa system. It was drafted by eight senators, four of them Republicans and four Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Last month, the bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on a 13-5 vote amid optimism on the part of supporters that it could pass the Senate by a large margin. Durbin said after the committee vote he was confident about the bill’s prospects.

One of the “Gang of Eight,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Tuesday, however, there aren’t yet the 60 votes to break a possible filibuster, and the new letter likened the bill to the Affordable Care Act, the health care law that Republicans have sought to scuttle ever since it was approved in 2010.

“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 letter said.

Pro-immigration groups have tried to combat the idea that the bill is weak on enforcement. They say its enforcement upgrades are the most extensive in American history and the proposal strikes the right balance between securing the borders and establishing a fair path to citizenship.

Lynn Tramonte, deputy director at America’s Voice, said the letter is the senators’ attempt to justify voting against “the best chance for real immigration reform in 25 years.”

She said the senators had their chance to change the bill in committee, where more than 200 amendments were considered.

“Unfortunately for Grassley and his gang, not all of their ideas were popular,” she said. “But fortunately for the country, immigration reform is moving ahead with or without them.”

In addition to Grassley, Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, signed the letter.

Ed Tibbetts reports for the Quad-City Times, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.

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