A top Republican Senator said Friday's news that the suspected bombers were immigrants should play a role in the immigration debate, a comment that drew a quick rebuke from Democrats. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The news was still fresh, the facts not yet fully known, but Iowa Republican Charles Grassley tried to connect the Boston bombing suspects to immigration reform.
"Given the events of this week, it's important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system," Grassley said.
Grassley made the remarks at the start of a Senate hearing on the 844-page immigration bill introduced earlier this week. It's believed the suspected bombers were immigrants who reportedly came to the U.S. about a decade ago.
Grassley's attempt to inject them into the immigration debate drew a quick response from Democrats.
"I'd like to ask that all of us not jump to conclusions regarding the events in Boston or try to conflate the events with this legislation," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
Immigration reform groups went further. In a statement, America's Voice Education Fund said, "It’s shameful that some on the far right are politicizing and demagoguing this issue. It's shameful, but not very surprising."
In fact, some conservatives took to Twitter to use the suspects as a talking point against a reform movement they already oppose.
The legislation, if approved, would spend billions of dollars beefing up border security before putting millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.
The bombings overshadowed the entire immigration hearing. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had been scheduled to testify, but had to cancel due to the developments in Massachusetts.
Another hearing is expected on Monday. If the Boston bombing suspects once again become a talking point, President Obama and immigration reform advocates might be forced to fight off an unwelcome narrative at a time when reform efforts appear to be gaining steam in Congress.