The events in Boston led Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to cancel her participation in the hearing.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a strong proponent of tighter border security, told McClatchy on Friday that the attacks underscore why the immigration debate already has been moving too fast.
More study is needed, he said, to look at the different visas, asylum policies and other ways people enter the country – legally and illegally – so members can have a “better understanding of how many ways our society can be threatened.”
But Gang of Eight Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a joint statement Friday that the Senate proposal would strengthen the nation’s security by helping identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” they said in their statement. “We have 11 million people living in the shadows, which leaves this nation vulnerable to a myriad of threats.”
It’s indisputable that the immigration system is broken, said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who felt it was inappropriate to link the tragedy in Boston with proposed legislation. He said it’s wrong to attribute crimes to proposals. If anything, they must be attributed to the current broken system, he said.
“So what that does leave me to believe is that we have to fix the current immigration system if, in fact, there is any connection at all between immigration and this issue,” he said.
A proponent of comprehensive overhaul, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, was part of meetings with the White House in 2001 discussing immigration reform. He said the situation then was completely different. Tremendous strides have been made in improving background checks to detect threats in the immigration system, he said. And he called it “disgusting” for some politicians and activists to “turn a raw Boston tragedy” into “a talking point” on legislation. If anything, Sharry said, the Senate proposal works to improve security checks to keep people out who want to harm the country.
Alex Conant, spokesman for another member of the Gang of Eight, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that while there are legitimate questions to ask about the role our immigration system may have played in what has occurred, “Americans will reject any attempt to tie the losers responsible for the attacks in Boston with the millions of law-abiding immigrants currently living in the U.S. and those hoping to immigrate here in the future."
Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald contributed.