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Will Boston bombings derail immigration reform?

U.S. Sen. Dick Durb |  AP file photo

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin | AP file photo

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:45AM

WASHINGTON — The question asked on various Sunday shows was whether the Boston bombings will slow or derail immigration reform; it came up because the suspects are immigrants: The now deceased Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was a legal permanent resident and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, captured Friday, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, according to the FBI.

Five takeaways, as landmark immigration legislation is pending in the Senate with the House version expected to be introduced in a few weeks:

◆ White House and congressional sources are saying the lawmakers who have or will call for delay in dealing with immigration because of the Boston bombings were poised to oppose the measure anyway. The Boston bombings may complicate the road some, but in the end, the vote count may not be significantly impacted.

◆ The issue of whether the FBI fumbled in handling Tamerlan Tsarnaev has to do with security, intelligence, whether U.S. laws to monitor threats are sufficient and U.S.-Russian relations — not immigration. A caveat: that is, unless something damaging comes out about the Tsarnaev family immigration history.

◆ Watch for House and Senate committees to probe why the older brother — flagged by Russia as a potential problem and subsequently questioned by the FBI — was not kept under a closer watch.

◆ Republicans know it is in their political interests to pass immigration reform before the 2014 elections — notwithstanding the Boston tragedy. Former GOP vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has been working with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on immigration issues, make a joint presentation to the City Club of Chicago on Monday.

◆ Democratic activist groups know it is in their interest not to paint every Republican with a negative brush; immigration goes nowhere without GOP votes. To that point: The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights — a group with a Democratic tilt — will “thank” Ryan at an event Monday morning at the Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie.

The bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line came on the very week the Senate bipartisan “Gang of 8” filed their 844-page immigration bill; the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill Friday; a second hearing is on Monday morning.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is in the Senate “gang;” Gutierrez is a member of the House bipartisan group. He told me Sunday he’s not anticipating many defectors because of Boston. Immigration foes “will probably opportunistically take advantage to muddle the issue of why we need immigration reform,” Gutierrez said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is also a member of the “Gang of 8,” and a noted hardliner on security issues.

On CNN’s “State of the Union, Graham said “I want to know how the FBI or the system dropped the ball when (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) was identified as a potential terrorist.”

At the same time regarding immigration, “what happened in Boston and international terrorism I think should urge us to act quicker, not slower,” said Graham.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, Durbin said on “NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “the worst thing we can do is nothing.”

Though they are known for other issues, Illinois has two members on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Gutierrez and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Gutierrez told me he looks forward to having the FBI director come before the Intel panel for a briefing on how Tsarnaev slipped through the system. Schakowsky told me Sunday, “it is a real stretch to connect what happened in Boston to immigration.”

The Boston bombings, said Gutierrez, “is not a reason to stop immigration reform unless you want it to be.”

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