WASHINGTON -- The Boston Marathon bombings are evidence that the U.S. immigration system needs to be overhauled now, two co-sponsors of the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill said Sunday.
Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) both rejected suggestions by some Republican lawmakers that efforts to provide the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship should be delayed by last week's attack.
"I think now is the time to bring all the 11 million out of the shadows and find out who they are," Graham said. "Most of them are here to work, but we may find some terrorists in our midst who have been hiding in the shadows."
He pointed out that the current system failed to recognize that the 19 hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks had overstayed their visas.
"We're going to fix that," Graham said. "In our bill, when you come into the country, it goes into the system, and when your time to leave the country expires and you haven't left, law enforcement is notified."
"What happened in Boston and international terrorism I think should urge us to act quicker, not slower, when it comes to getting the 11 million identified," he added.
Schumer said the immigration bill's opponents were trying to use the Boston bombings as an excuse to derail a policy agenda they would never support.
"Some on the hard right, some otherwise, who opposed [this] from the get-go are using this as an excuse. We are not going to let them do that," Schumer said. "If they have a reason, a suggestion as to how to change it based on what happened in Boston, we'll certainly be open to it. But we're not going to let them use what happened in Boston as an excuse because our law toughens things up."
Graham also noted that the family of suspected Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been granted asylum when they came to the United States a decade ago, but that system has been significantly toughened up and the family might not have received asylum under current law.
Both senators said there will be ample opportunity for lawmakers to debate and amend the immigration bill.
In recent days, some other Republicans have drawn a link between immigration reform and the attack in Boston.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of immigration reform's most outspoken critics, used early speculation that a foreign national was behind the attack to underscore his argument that creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants could endanger the public.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made a similar connection during the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform Friday.
"How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil?" Grassley said. "How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?"