WASHINGTON - An already contentious immigration bill became the lightning rod for more controversy on Friday when a senior Republican US senator linked the measure to the hunt in Massachusetts for a suspected Boston Marathon bomber.
"Given the events of this week, it is important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system," Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said.
Grassley, an opponent of past immigration proposals in Congress, was speaking at the start of a congressional hearing on legislation unveiled earlier this week that would give 11 million people living illegally in the United States a chance at citizenship.
As the hearing got under way, much of the city of Boston and surrounding areas were under lockdown amid a police search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 176 people near the finish line of the famous foot race.
The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, went to public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Boston, but originally is from a Russian province that borders on Chechnya. His older brother, who also was a suspect in the bombing, was killed overnight by police.
"How can we beef up security checks on people who enter the United States? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are ineligible for benefits under immigration laws, including this new bill before us," said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.