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Mario Diaz-Balart: Grassley’s terrorism-immigration bill link “not appropriate at this time.”


“Lower the rhetoric. Lower the decibels.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was giving that advice to the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Coral Gables during a talk about immigration reform – just as Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley appeared to have done just that in Washington.

At a committee hearing, Grassley said the immigration-reform bill ought to be discussed in connection with the Boston Marathon terror attack.

“Given the events of this week, it is important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,” said Grassley, a Republican like Miami’s Diaz-Balart, a House leader on immigration.

Asked about the connection between the terror attack and the immigration bill, Diaz-Balart said he hadn’t heard Grassley’s comments and couldn’t respond directly to them. But, he said, more facts should be gathered and more prayers should be said about the Boston Marathon.

“It is a horrible situation. It is heart-wrenching. And I’m not going to speculate on anything,” Diaz-Balart said. “Linking something like that to other legislation I think is probably no appropriate at this time. In the first place, we don’t have the facts. And what is indisputable, is that we have an immigration system that is broken; that we have an immigration system that is not working. We don’t know who gets here. We have millions of people who we don’t know who they are, who are here – whether we like it our not. Those who come legally, we don’t know if they leave. It’s very unfortunate. I’m going to be focusing on solutions to a very broken system.”

"And what is clear," he continued, "is the system we have not only is not working for our economy, but it’s also threatening the national security of our country. If – if – somebody is here today in the United States and commits a crime, it is under the current immigration system. It’s under the current immigration system. And obviously, not everything can be solved. But again, every crime that is committed right now is under the current immigration system. So what does that leave me to believe is that we have to fix the current immigration system if, in fact, there is any connection at all between immigration and this issue."

The office of Sen. Marco Rubio, a Senate immigration leader, was a little more biting in pushing back against Grassley.

“The situation in Boston is still developing and it's too soon to jump to conclusions, let alone use the tragedy to make political points,” spokesman Alex Conant said a statement. "There are legitimate policy questions to ask and answer about what role our immigration system played, if any, in what happened. Regardless of the circumstances in Boston, immigration reform that strengthens our borders and gives us a better accounting of who is in our country and why will improve our national security. Americans will reject any attempt to tie the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Boston with the millions of decent, law-abiding immigrants currently living in the US and those hoping to immigrate here in the future."

Rubio’s office has been spending considerable time countering critics, many Republican, and naming names: Sens. Jeff Sessions, Rand Paul, David Vitter and now Grassley. 

On a related note, The Economist points out that, "rationally or not, terrorism involving foreigners in America has always been linked to immigration politics. The first push to restrict immigration in the 20th century got started after anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley; he wasn't even an immigrant himself, his parents were, but it was enough to prompt Teddy Roosevelt to ask congress to bar 'the coming to this country of anarchists or persons professing principles hostile to all government.' The resulting Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1903, and the Immigration Act of 1918 which expanded its authority, didn't end up actually kicking out more than a few dozen people. And the 1924 Immigration Act, which really did lead to a drastic cutback in immigration, was based on quotas by race and country of origin rather than ideology. But the political discourse supporting immigration restrictions has always leaned heavily on supposed threats of violence, both criminal and ideological. A couple of immigrant ideological terrorists, running around Massachusetts killing people—the last time the media got hold of a story like this, Sacco and Vanzetti (pictured) were sentenced to death, and four years later immigration to America was cut to a trickle."