WASHINGTON — Democratic supporters of a new immigration bill accused opponents Monday of trying to “exploit” the Boston Marathon bombings to hold up the legislation, sparking a testy exchange at a Senate hearing.
“I never said that! I never said that!” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, interjected as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a lead author of the bill, criticized “those who are pointing to what happened, the terrible tragedy in Boston, as a, I would say, excuse for not doing a bill or delaying it.”
Schumer said he wasn’t talking about Grassley, who said last week that the bombings, allegedly carried out by two immigrant brothers, raised questions about gaps in the U.S. immigration system.
The exchange came as the Judiciary Committee opened its second hearing on sweeping legislation to strengthen border security, allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country, require all employers to check workers’ legal status, and provide an eventual path to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants now here illegally.
The obstacles to the legislation were on stark display Monday. Polls show majority public backing for comprehensive legislation, including a path to citizenship, and many Republicans also support such an approach. But in some corners, opposition has not wavered:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called a path to citizenship “divisive,” and said that “any bill that insists upon that jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform bill.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the border security piece of the bill “falls well short of the sponsors’ aspiration to protect the borders and maintain U.S. sovereignty.”
Several Democrats expressed concerns over the exclusion of provisions to recognize gay marriages for immigration purposes.