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GOP senators: Slow immigration reform, bring negotiations out from behind closed doors

As spring approaches, advocates of comprehensive immigration reform are optimistic that behind-the-scenes bipartisan negotiations are on track to construct long-awaited legislation that could make it to the president’s desk by the end of summer.

But that doesn't mean that everyone’s pleased with the timeline.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, six Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee urged further hearings and a slower process on the Senate legislation, which has been negotiated behind closed doors by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”

“The last time Congress considered legislation of this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system, the negative consequences of which are only now coming to light,” the six GOP senators wrote.

“If we bring these important issues to the Senate floor without them having been worked through committee, it is a prescription for a real problem.”

The letter is signed by Judiciary Committee members Sens.  Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn.

"If we are serious about protecting our national interest and the best interests of American workers, we must provide all members of the Senate, and, most importantly, the public, a full and fair opportunity to become adequately informed," the writers state.

The other two Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, are both part of the “Gang of Eight.”

That group hopes to unveil legislation next month that would provide a broad framework largely in line with the Obama administration’s priorities for the bill.

But in a statement, Sessions urged a slower and less sweeping approach to address the reform.

"A sound process will take months, not days or weeks," he said. "And we’d be better off taking a step-by-step approach than trying to deal with these complex and emotional issues in one massive piece of legislation."

NBC's Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.

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