Boston Bombings Trip Up Immigration Debate

The Boston bombing could slam the brakes on the Senate's immigration reform effort.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev stand by the Boston Marathon finish line.

As the "gang of eight" immigration bill released last week continues to be debated by the Senate, questions are being raised as to what impact the Boston marathon bombings will have on the legislation. While the investigation into the bombings is still underway, the fact that the two suspects were immigrants has led to calls to put the brakes on reform until more information about the case is known.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were of Chechen origin, but immigrated to the United States and were both legal residents. The exact motive of the bombings is unknown, as 26-year-old Tamerlan was killed Friday by police and 19-year-old Dzhokhar remains wounded in the hospital. The explosions killed three and left scores injured when they went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

[ See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Boston Marathon bombings.]

The bipartisan group behind the immigration bill released last week has purposefully moved slowly as part of a campaign intended to fend off criticism that the much-needed reform was put together hastily. But Monday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) requesting that the Senate slow movements on immigration reform until more information on the Boston bombings was available, saying "[w]e should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system":

I believe that any real comprehensive immigration reform must implement strong national security protections. The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont criticized those who had politicized the tragedy in Boston, attempting to use the terrorist attack to block the immigration bill:

Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing … Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous acts of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

Two Republican members of the gang of eight also released a statement, saying Friday that the immigration status quo "is unacceptable." Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said last week's events are all the more reason to act on immigration reform:

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. 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.

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