Alleged Boston Marathon Bombers' Immigration Status Already Impacting Reform Debate

Alleged bombers immigrated from Kyrgyzstan, family says.

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With details of the immigration status of the two suspected Boston Marathon bombers emerges, lawmakers are already coping with speculation it could impact the bipartisan immigration reform proposal unveiled Thursday.

[LIVE BLOG: Manhunt for Boston Bombing Suspect Unfolds]

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, mentioned Boston during opening remarks at an immigration reform hearing Friday morning.

"We also appreciate the opportunity to talk about immigration particularly in light of all that is happening in Massachusetts over the last week," he said. "While we don't yet know the immigration status of the people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system."

 

The bombing suspects are brothers who were born in Kyrgyzstan and came to the United States legally "seven or eight years" ago, according to an uncle interviewed on CNN Friday.

[PHOTOS: Law Enforcement Descend on Boston]

Another uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, speaking from Maryland, says the alleged bombers "immigrated and they received asylum."

Grassley, who has opposed comprehensive immigration reform efforts in the past, could use fears about the alleged bombers foreign ties to rally support against the latest proposal.

But supporters of reform, including Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have said the Boston events should not be part of the immigration debate yet.

[EXPERT: Chechen Influence Apparent in Bombing]

"There are legitimate policy questions to ask and answer about what role our immigration system played, if any, in what happened,” says Alex Conant, Rubio’s spokesman, in an email. “Regardless of the circumstances in Boston, immigration reform that strengthens our borders and gives us a better accounting of who is in our country and why, will improve our national security. Americans will reject any attempt to tie the losers responsible for the attacks in Boston with the millions of law-abiding immigrants currently living in the U.S. and those hoping to immigrate here in the future."

The bipartisan Senate proposal, crafted by four Democrats and four Republicans, would overhaul the United States immigration policy, including different avenues for obtaining citizenship.

"I'd like to ask that all of us not jump to conclusions regarding events in Boston or conflate those events with this legislation," Schumer said during the Senate Judiciary Hearing, in response to Grassley's comments.

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Corrected on : Updated 04/19/13: This story has been updated to include a longer statement from Sen. Marco Rubio’s office.