The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday analyzed at a packed hearing the elements of immigration reform at a time when last week's deadly bomb attack in Boston has made the political climate more problematic for moving forward on the issue.
Although on a much smaller scale than the 9/11 attacks, which buried immigration reform in 2001, the emergence of a pair of Chechen immigrant brothers as the suspects in the Boston bombings has caused several Republican leaders to ask for a delay in implementing any reform.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who is in serious condition at a Boston hospital, immigrated to the United States legally in 2003 and obtained citizenship on Sept. 11, 2012. His older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police on Friday evening, was a legal resident.
"Last week opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon," the chair of the judiciary committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said at the start of Monday's hearing. "I urge restraint in that regard."
"Let no one be so cruel as to use these heinous acts of two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hardworking people," the Vermont Democrat said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the authors of the bipartisan immigration bill introduced last week, complained that some people were trying to use the bombings "as an excuse to wait many months or years."
"I never said that!," shouted Iowa's Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, who has been saying since last week that immigration reform should not be "rushed."
One of Schumer's colleagues in the bipartisan "Gang of Eight," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said the events in Boston "should urge us to act quicker, not slower," on reforming the system.
"I think now is the time to bring all of the 11 million (unauthorized immigrants) out of the shadows and find out who they are. Most of them are here to work but we may find some terrorists in our midst who've been hiding in the shadows," Graham said. EFE