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Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy and ranking Republican Charles E. Grassley sparred at the opening of Monday’s hearing on immigration changes over how the Boston Marathon bombings might affect the legislation.
“Let me point out one thing that has troubled me a great deal,” Leahy said. “Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing. I’m a New Englander; I’ve spent a lot of time in Boston growing up and still do today. [I have] friends and relatives there. I urge restraint in that regard.
The Vermont Democrat added, “Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous act of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hardworking people. The bill before us would serve to strengthen our national security by allowing us to focus our border security and enforcement effort against those that do us harm.”
Grassley, who connected the two issues at the April 19 immigration hearing, reacted sharply Monday by saying he just wants a thorough and deliberative process. The Iowa Republican also noted that when Leahy and Democrats proposed gun control legislation, Republicans did not accuse Democrats of exploiting the tragedy of Newtown, Conn., where 20 schoolchildren and seven adults were killed in December.
“I want you to take note of the fact that when you proposed gun legislation, I didn’t accuse you of using the [Newtown] killings as an excuse,” Grassley said.
Grassley also cited the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed 14 people, noting that he also doesn’t see criticism of people “taking advantage of that tragedy to warn about more government action to make sure that fertilizer factories are safe.”
“I think we are taking advantage of an opportunity when once in 25 years we deal with immigration to make sure that every base is covered,” Grassley said.
Leahy also announced that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would appear before the committee Tuesday after canceling her appearance last week to deal with the ongoing search for the Boston bombing suspects.
“Secretary Napolitano was scheduled to appear then, but I think everybody understands that [given] what happened in Massachusetts she could not be here,” Leahy said. “She will be before the committee tomorrow morning.”
As lawmakers and the public learned last week that the two men suspected of masterminding the Boston bombings were immigrants with roots in Chechnya, some in Congress said the Senate should slow its rush to pass the bill until it learned more about the suspects’ immigration history.
“When we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system, how an individual evades such authority and plans attacks on our soil,” Grassley said April 19.