By Russell Berman - 04/23/13 06:16 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued Tuesday that immigration reform would enhance the nation’s security as he sought to prevent concerns raised by the Boston bombings from derailing the bipartisan legislation.
“Under the status quo, we do not know who is here and might be intending to do us harm,” Reid wrote in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Reid was responding to a letter Paul sent him on Monday in which the Kentucky Republican called on the Senate to address security flaws exposed by the bombing of the Boston Marathon before acting on immigration reform.
“The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system,” Paul wrote. “If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs.
“We should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system,” he added.
Paul, a Tea Party favorite, had earlier voiced support for a comprehensive immigration overhaul, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that many conservatives oppose. He has not taken a position on the 844-page bill released last week by the Gang of Eight, and his letter on Monday gave voice to the worries that the Boston attacks allegedly carried out by Chechen immigrants would slow the reform push.
Paul called for hearings in the Homeland Security Committee and detailed a number of questions relating to the entry of the Tsarnaev brothers into the United States and any intelligence failures that may have occurred in the run-up to the bombings.
In his reply, Reid sought to reassure Paul that the immigration reform legislation would go through “regular order” and that examination of the bill and its impact on national security would be thorough.
“There will be ample opportunity to amend this bill, both in committee and on the floor, as it moves through regular order,” Reid wrote. “I look forward to working with you throughout this process on ways we can improve this bill and enact commonsense immigration reform that will enhance our national security, improve our nation’s economy, keep families together, and fix our broken system once and for all.”