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Fears of terrorism threaten immigration bill

April 19, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON -- A top Republican senator, citing the Boston bombings, warned Friday against rushing ahead with a reform of the country's immigration laws, as concerns about terrorism appeared to revive conservative opposition to the proposal.

“Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“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. 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?”

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon attack

The comments by Grassley, senior Republican on the Judiciary panel, were the first overt sign of a potential new hurdle for the immigration plan, which has a narrow window for political consideration. He voiced an attitude that had been percolating among some conservative lawmakers that the bombing at the Boston Marathon provides a reason to limit newcomers to the country.

The comments drew a sharp rebuke from one of the chief architects of the bipartisan Senate immigration proposal.

“I'd like to ask that all of us not jump to conclusions regarding the events in Boston - or try to conflate those events with this legislation,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during Friday’s Senate Judiciary Committee. “In general, we’re a safer country when law enforcement knows who is here, has their fingerprints, photos, etc. …and no longer needs to look at needles through haystacks.”

Earlier in the week, GOP allies of the sweeping immigration overhaul had seemed to be gaining ground with their argument that passing a comprehensive bill is politically important for the party. But the bill embodies a series of politically complex compromises, and the uncertainty generated by the bombings seems likely to give new impetus to its opposition.

PHOTOS: Boston bombing suspects

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lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

Twitter: @lisamascaroindc

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