Boston bombing sparks push for delay in immigration reform

Critics of the new immigration reform policy say that the events in Boston during the week of April 15 show that the American immigration system has some major flaws. With the nation’s attention now focused on the bombing suspects, legal immigrants who were ethnic Chechens, some lawmakers and citizens are skeptical of the new changes proposed by the Senate. Critics of the new U.S. immigration policies, which include granting legal status to undocumented immigrants, have long cited concerns about potential criminal or terrorist threats as supporting arguments. However, others say that the terrorist attacks on April 15 are reason enough for the immigration reform to press on in order to tighten security and prevent possible dangerous terrorists from entering the country.

“It’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,” GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said at the opening of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 19.

The surviving Boston bombing suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev, immigrated to the U.S. in 2003. He became a naturalized American citizen on Sept. 11, 2012, according to law enforcement officials. His 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed during an April 19 confrontation with police in Massachusetts, was a legal resident. Both critics and supporters say that the bombing doesn’t undermine the case for the bill, but it does underscore the need to revamp U.S. immigration laws.

“Our law toughens things up,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN. “There are some on the hard right, some otherwise, who oppose our immigration bill from the get-go, and they’re using this as an excuse. We are not going to let them do that.”

On April 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee resumed debate over its bipartisan immigration reform bill. According to MSNBC, nearly two dozen witnesses are slated to address the panel, but the ongoing fallout over how the Boston Marathon suspects got into the country could well overshadow the people set to testify at the debate. Schumer suggested that the legislation, which was introduced last week and is currently being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee, could be amended in light of the Boston tragedy.

While some think that the terrorist attacks should stop the immigration reform debates all together, senators said that the policy debate needs to enforce changes in the system to protect innocent lives.

“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,” said Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a joint statement on April 19. “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. The status quo is unacceptable.”

Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois agreed with the senators’ statement, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that any halt in the immigration reform would weaken border security and allow some information on visas and employment to slip through the cracks.

“The worst thing we can do is nothing,” Durbin said. “If we do nothing, [we’ll be] leaving 11 million people in the shadows.”

Senators from the Gang of Eight noted that those who wanted to halt the immigration reform were merely using Boston’s events as a way to stall developments in these new policies. They said that they will continue on as planned with the bill, and hope to act rationally instead of emotionally.