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POLITICS: White House

Boston bombings stoke new immigration, security debates

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Politics Digest,Immigration,Homeland Security

White House Correspondent

Washington leaders on Sunday began grappling with the policy repercussions of last week's twin bombings at the Boston Marathon, as some called for slowing the push for immigration reforms and heightening counterterrorism efforts after suspected bombers of Chechen heritage went undetected.

One thing is certain: The highest-profile terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than a decade is sure to foster a lengthy debate within the intelligence community and among lawmakers about preventing similar future attacks.

Authorities are still hoping to learn more from 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the wounded "suspect No. 2" who is recovering in a Boston-area hospital after being wounded in a shootout in Watertown, Mass., during a daylong police manhunt. Tsarnaev became a U.S. citizen last year; his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in the shootout with police, had a green card but was not a citizen.

Some in Washington said that clear lessons had already emerged, particularly as Congress weighs a dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

"Immigration has a dramatic economic effect on Americans -- it has national security implications," Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said on ABC's "This Week." "I'm afraid we'll rush to some judgments relative to immigration and how it's processed so let's do it in a rational way. We're talking months here, not years."

Architects of a Senate immigration plan that would grant a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. lambasted attempts to tie the Boston terror attacks to their proposed reforms.

"The worst thing we can do is nothing," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Immigration reform will make us safer."

Police on Sunday said the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were intent on carrying out more attacks, praising officials for preventing even more American casualties. But others focused on the national security implications of the tragedy, saying the FBI didn't do enough to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev after Russian intelligence sources told them of his possible extremist beliefs.

"The ball was dropped in one of two ways," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Either our laws are insufficient or the FBI failed, but we're at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game."

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., added on "Fox News Sunday," "If you know a threat is coming from a certain community, you have to go after that."

Reminiscent of the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a debate over whether terror suspects should be tried in civilian court or by military tribunals has re-emerged. GOP lawmakers called for Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant, a designation reserved for suspected terrorists, while others said that as a U.S. citizen he must receive a civilian trial.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on "Fox News Sunday" that it would be "unconstitutional" to try Tsarnaev before a military tribunal.

Authorities continued to monitor Tsarnaev at a Boston hospital on Sunday, where they said they would question him once he was healthy enough to be interrogated.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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