Immigration reform is unlikely to be slowed or halted because of the Boston bombing. Immigration exclusionists opposed the Gang of Eight’s bill before the bombing, and they’ll oppose it afterward.
After Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) accused Republicans of trying to sabotage the Gang of Eight by using Boston to scare people about immigrants, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a statement:
I disagree with those who say that the terrorist attack in Boston has no bearing on the immigration debate. Any immigration reform we pursue should make our country safer and more secure. If there are flaws in our immigration system that were exposed by the attack in Boston, any immigration reform passed by Congress this year should address those flaws. Congress needs time to conduct more hearings and investigate how our immigration and national security systems could be improved going forward.
The attack reinforces why immigration reform should be a lengthy, open and transparent process, so that we can ask and answer important questions surrounding every facet of the bill. But we still have a broken system that needs to be fixed.
Rubio got some unexpected help today from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who generally supports immigration reform but would “require annual votes of Congress to establish that the border is truly secure.” (Consider, however, what happens under that arrangement if liberal Democrats were to control both the House and Senate.) Today Paul sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), urging, “There should be hearings in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that study the national security aspects of this situation, making sure that our current immigration system gives individuals from high-risk areas of the world heightened scrutiny.”
More important, Paul makes the case that immigration reform is needed to improve national security:
One, the Senate needs a thorough examination of the facts in Massachusetts to see if legislation is necessary to prevent a similar situation in the future. Two, national security protections must be rolled into comprehensive immigration reform to make sure the federal government does everything it can to prevent immigrants with malicious intent from using our immigration system to gain entry into the United States in order to commit future acts of terror.
He also wants to revisit the National Security Registration System (NSEERS) “based on the practical idea that extra screening is necessary from nations that have a higher population of extremists. Congress might need a similar system updated for current circumstances to be rolled into comprehensive immigration reform.” Specifically, he wants to look again at student visas and refugee requests from high-risk areas.
In sum, two of the Senate’s most visible Republicans have figured out that national security is a persuasive argument in favor of reform. Meanwhile, longtime immigration-reform proponent Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is in Chicago, discussing the issue with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). Immigration-reform proponents are not missing a beat and, in fact, seem to be picking up steam.
The problem immigration exclusionists have is that, absent a bill of their own, they now stand on the side of doing nothing about our border and attendant security needs. After years of pushing for a fence along the border, they now whine that the bill to secure the border will cost too much. The problem with making the perfect the enemy of the good is that you wind up on the side of the status quo, which in the immigration context means de facto amnesty, porous borders and national security dangers.
UPDATE: In Chicago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) declared, “We all must acknowledge that we have an immigration system that’s broken. It is not serving our interest as a nation. Our broken immigration system does not serve our national security interests. Our broken immigration system does not serve our economic security interests. Our broken immigration system does not serve our family interests. And so when Republicans and Democrats look at this situation and see something that’s broken, we need to fix it.” If Ryan can influence a significant block of House Republicans, then the Gang of Eight may have a chance to get past anti-reformers on the right and left. It is interesting that four of the top 2016 presidential contenders (Rubio, Ryan, Paul and Jeb Bush) have all staked out a pro-reform stance.