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Boston suspects and the threat to immigration reform

April 19, 2013|By Michael McGough

When it emerged that the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosions were immigrants of Chechen ancestry, journalist Roger Simon tweeted: “Unfair as it may be, I think liberalizing our immigration laws just suffered a setback.”

It’s too early to call Simon a prophet, but within a few hours, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) was musing about a connection between Boston and immigration.

"Given the events of this week, it's important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system," Grassley 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.”

PHOTOS: Manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspects

Grassley continued: "How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil? How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?"

These aren’t ridiculous questions, but they aren’t any more pertinent today than they were a week ago. The brothers identified as the marathon bombing suspects -- Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- emigrated to this country as young men, and the notion that they were “sleeper” terrorists seems implausible.  

Grassley was deftly countered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who asked that “all of us not jump to conclusions regarding the events in Boston or try to conflate those events with this legislation.” Schumer added that programs for political refugees have been “significantly  strengthened in the past five years, such that we are much more careful about screening people and determining who should and should not be coming into the country.”

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon attack

Schumer may have logic and the facts on his side, but the connection Grassley tried to draw between Boston and immigration reform -- however tenuous -- is likely to have legs.

ALSO:

Coming to terms with terror

A Pollyannaish approach to Boston's horror

Surveillance cameras and the Boston Marathon bombing

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