An already contentious immigration bill became the lightning rod for more controversy on Friday when a senior Republican U.S. senator linked the measure to the Boston Marathon bombings and the hunt for the two ethnic Chechen suspects.
“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, spoke 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 Boston and its surrounding areas were under lockdown as police searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, one of two brothers suspected to have carried out the attack in Boston on Monday that killed three and injured 176 people.
His older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed overnight in a shootout with police.
The brothers trace their roots to the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia’s Caucasus. School officials in Dagestan, a province that borders the breakaway republic of Chechnya, said the family had left for the United States in 2002 after arriving the previous year from Kyrgyzstan as refugees.
U.S. officials said the two suspects were in the United States legally.