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Clash Over Boston Bombings, Immigration at Judiciary Hearing

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Grassley, left, and Leahy expressed different views Monday on whether the Boston Marathon bombings should affect immigration legislation.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said he agreed with Grassley. “We have a broken system; it needs to be reformed,” he said. “But I’m afraid we’ll rush to some judgments relative to immigration and how it’s processed. So let’s do it in a rational way rather than an emotional way.”

On Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., another member of the immigration group, denounced those who want to use the bombing as an “excuse” to delay immigration legislation, drawing an impassioned response from Grassley, who said, “I didn’t say that.”

Schumer said the bill includes added border security measures, more money for the border fence, biometric indicators for new immigrants and an improved entry and exit system at the nation’s airports and seaports, all designed to prevent those who would commit terrorist acts from entering the country.

“If there are things that come up as a result of what happened in Boston that require improvements, let’s add them to the bill,” he said. “But certainly our bill tightens up things in a way that would make a Boston less likely.”

The immigration ramifications of the Boston bombings are unlikely to change many minds on Capitol Hill, where momentum for an immigration overhaul has been building since the 2012 elections, when Hispanic voters helped propel President Barack Obama back to office.

But Grassley’s statement suggests a new line of attack that opponents of the immigration bill could attempt to use to unravel the bipartisan effort.

Republicans supporting the overhaul took Grassley to task last week for his statements.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who are members of a bipartisan group of eight senators working on an immigration bill, released a joint statement urging restraint.

“In the wake of this week’s terrorist attack in Boston, some have already suggested that the circumstances of this terrible tragedy are justification for delaying or stopping entirely the effort for comprehensive immigration reform,” they said. “In fact, the opposite is true: Immigration reform will strengthen our nation’s security by helping us identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left, a basic function of government that our broken immigration system is incapable of accomplishing today.”

In response to Leahy’s comments, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the bipartisan group who drafted the bill, said he believes there is a connection between the Boston bombing and the immigration proposal because that measure is being pursued as an effort to help make the nation safer.

“I disagree with those who say that the terrorist attack in Boston has no bearing on the immigration debate,” Rubio said. “Any immigration reform we pursue should make our country safer and more secure. If there are flaws in our immigration system that were exposed by the attack in Boston, any immigration reform passed by Congress this year should address those flaws. Congress needs time to conduct more hearings and investigate how our immigration and national security systems could be improved going forward.”

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