"We fully expect that such a directive, if issued, would be immediately rescinded," they added. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

By RUDY TAKALA 11/3/16 1:47 PM

Leading congressional Republicans warned the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday not to delay updates to Congress on the state of the immigration crisis until after the election, and said that delay, if it is happening, would be "unacceptable."

"[I]t has come to light through information provided to our Committees that the Department may have issued a directive to limit engagement with Congress until immediately before the election," they wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. "Any such directive, if issued, would be an unacceptable political ploy and a serious infringement of Congress' oversight authority under the Constitution."

"We fully expect that such a directive, if issued, would be immediately rescinded," they added.

Signatories to the letter were Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who head the judiciary committees in their respective chambers, as well as South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who head subcommittees on immigration and border security.

Those lawmakers said the Office of Legislative Affairs in DHS canceled a Nov. 1 meeting that had been scheduled to discuss the issue, without any explanation.

"[L]ate in the afternoon of October 31, the Department abruptly canceled the scheduled briefing, citing unspecified scheduling conflicts by some of the experts, and recommended that the briefing occur next week," they wrote. "Efforts by our staffs to have the available experts provide a briefing were rejected."

They said the government needs to keep Congress fully briefed about the crisis, which appears to have been made worse by the U.S. election.

Border-state sheriffs have said the U.S. election is driving the surge in immigration numbers. They told the Washington Examiner that some fear a Donald Trump win would prevent them from entering the U.S. at all, while others think a Hillary Clinton win might create the conditions for an amnesty award for any illegal immigration in the U.S.

Final figures for the last fiscal year show that the number of children crossing the border approached the numbers seen in the crisis year of 2014.

"The numbers are staggering," the lawmakers wrote in their letter, noting Border Patrol apprehended more than 408,000 illegal aliens attempting to cross the border in the last fiscal year. "Numerous media reports indicate that this surge is a large-scale effort to enter the United States before this year's presidential election."

They also encouraged DHS to tell Congress what funding it needs to mitigate the crisis.

"Without additional funding, ICE likely will release thousands of those detained into the United States, many of whom are criminals, who will abscond and hide from authorities. We have been made aware through media reports and whistleblowers that ICE faces imminent budgetary shortfalls because the border crisis is driving so many additional foreign nationals into ICE detention," lawmakers wrote.