Two senators who have been pushing for comprehensive immigration reform defended their efforts on Sunday, after last week’s Boston Marathon terror saga provoked new challenges for their new bill.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), both members of the “Gang of Eight” that drafted the 844-page bill, both appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday with Candy Crowley to defend their legislation. The fact that the brothers who carried out the attack, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were granted asylum in the United States triggered debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week over the wisdom of liberalizing American immigration laws, given renewed concerns about terrorist infiltration.
On Sunday, Crowley asked Sen. Graham whether he would consider any amendments to the bill as a result of new security concerns. His response was that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would itself enable better monitoring of who they were, where they came from and why they had come.
“Now is the time to bring all of the eleven million out of the shadows and find out who they are,” Graham said.
Graham laid blame at the feet of the FBI, which had been alerted about Tamerlan Tsarnaev but apparently lost track of him after 2011. He also cited poor enforcement of visa deadlines, and said that the new bill would “fix that.”
“In our bill, when you come into the country, it goes into the system,” Graham said. “And when your time to leave the country expires, and you haven’t left, law enforcement is notified. So we’re addressing the broken immigration system.
“What happened in Boston, and international terrorism, I think should urge us to act quicker, not slower, when it comes to getting the eleven million identified,” he concluded.
Sen. Schumer agreed: “Keeping the status quo is not a good argument, given what happened,” he said. “Our law toughens things up.” He described concerns expressed by Republicans as opportunistic. “We’re not going to let them use what happened in Boston as an excuse” to oppose a bill they already wished to defeat.
In response to a question from Crowley as to whether some would now try to “slow-walk” the bill, Schumer added that he believed there was no reason to slow the process.
“We have ample opportunity for people to amend our bill. First, it’s online now. It’s going to be online for three weeks before we even get to the Judiciary Committee markup. There, anyone, including two of the leading opponents of immigration reform, Senators [Jeff] Sessions [R-AL] and [Senator Charles] Grassley, both of whom have said this is a reason to slow it down, can make any amendments they want. And then we go to the floor, any one of the hundred Senators could propose amendments.
“To not do it, or say, ‘Do it six months from now,’ is an excuse. There’s ample opportunity to amend the bill if people see anything that they want to toughen up even further than what we have done.”
Supporters of the bill appear to have realized that the Boston Marathon terror attack complicates the debate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has appeared frequently in the media to defend the immigration reform effort, kept a low profile this weekend, leaving to Graham and Schumer the task of defending the effort.
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