Senators in immigration reform hearings react to Boston bombings

The hearings on immigration reform in the Senate have begun in the shadow of the Boston bombing.  The first hearing was last Friday.  Yesterday, the Senator Judiciary committee held a marathon hearing yesterday with 23 witnesses.  In the middle of that hearing, the NYT reported testy exchanges by the Senators over the relevance of the Boston bombings to the current consideration of comprehensive immigration reform.

At last Friday's hearing about immigration, Senator Grassley (R-IA) had said they needed to proceed slowly with "“particularly in light of all that’s happening in Massachusetts right now and over the last week.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said yesterday:  "“Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing...Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous acts of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people.”

Senator Schumer (D-NY) then accused critics of immigration reform who “are pointing to what happened, the terrible tragedy in Boston, as, I would say, an excuse for not doing a bill or delaying it many months or years.”, to which Senator Grassley retorted,“I never said that!” said Mr. Grassley, raising his voice and leaning forward in his chair to look at Mr. Schumer. “I never said that!”

I argued on Friday that discussions of immigration reform should be decoupled from the Boston bombings investigation.  For now, it seems that the Boston bombings may have halted the momentum of the immigration reform effort, but will not be its undoing.

While the immigration hearings were underway, both Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) issued separate statements calling for a full exploration of whether the immigration failed to screen out the Tsarnaev brothers in some way.  Meanwhile, Paul Ryan (R-WI) shared a stage with Luis Guiterrez (D-IL) to urge immigration reform.  Ryan, former Vice Presidential candidate, is a conservative.  He stated, “We have a broken immigration system and, if anything, what we see in Boston is that we have to fix and modernize our immigration system for lots of reasons."  It is significant that Ryan, a high ranking Republican, spoke out for comprehensive immigration reform.  As Politico noted, up to this point, he was not heard from on that effort.

My sense is that if the immigration reform effort becomes undone, it will not be because of the Boston bombings. Too many Republicans support the comprehensive reform efforts at this point, although there may be a gap between the Republican leadership and the rank and file on the subject.