As the manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing continues, Sen. Charles Grassley used the moment as an opportunity to discuss immigration reform.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hear testimony from Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, on bipartisan immigration overhaul, but developments in the search for the second suspect forced the hearing to be postponed.
Grassley, the Republican senator from Iowa, and a ranking member of the committee, said at the beginning of the meeting, “Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system. 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.”
Grassley asked how individuals like the two suspects, identified as 26-year-old Tamerlan and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brothers who are originally from Chechnya, could “evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil?” He then continued to question how the US could “beef up security checks” on people who want to enter the country.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said assumptions shouldn’t be made about the motivation behind the attacks in Boston and that the other senators shouldn’t “try to conflate those events with this [immigration reform] legislation.”
“In general, we’re a safer country when law enforcement knows who is here – has their fingerprints, photos, et cetera – has conducted background checks and no longer needs to look at needles in haystacks,” Schumer continued. “In addition, both the refugee program and the asylum program 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.”
Schumer then said that if the homeland security experts told the senators that changes needed to be made to the bill, he is committed to making them.
Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice Education Fund and a longtime campaigner for immigration overhaul, said in a statement, “It’s premature to jump to final conclusions about the attackers. And it’s shameful that some on the far right are politicizing and demagoguing this issue.” He said some people are “exploiting this tragedy in hopes of derailing immigration reform.”
There is another interesting side to the immigration debate in regards to the bombing, one that was sparked by the uncle of the two suspects, Ruslan Tsarni.
Tsarni called his nephews “losers” who brought shame to their family and their Chechen heritage. He said the surviving brother, Dzhokar, should turn himself in and beg for forgiveness from the victims and their families. Tsarni also said that he respects and loves “this country which gives a chance to everyone else to be treated as a human being.”
Tsarni’s name quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, and users hailed the man as a “true American,” and said, “If that’s not an American, there are no Americans.” Netizens also commented on how Tsarni represented 99.9 percent of immigrants in the country.
Do you think Sen. Grassley’s comments were inappropriate or ill-timed? What do you think of the praise for Ruslan Tsarni?
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com]