Schumer tries to fight a slow-walk on immigration

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Schumer and Graham on CNN. ()
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On Sunday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer tried to make sure his big immigration reform bill wouldn't be derailed by the bombing in Boston.

"There are some—some on the hard right—some otherwise, who oppose our immigration bill from the get-go, and they're using this as an excuse," Schumer told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union."

"We are not going to let them do that," he continued. "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."

Schumer is trying hard to help the immigration bill across the finish line, after the gun bill he championed went down in a conspicuous defeat last week.

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But the marathon bombing threw a wrench into Schumer's carefully planned roll-out for the bill. After weeks of negotiations among the so-called Gang of Eight, a press conference to finally announce the legislation was delayed by the bombing, and the bill was subsequently greeted in the Judiciary Committee with some very public questions from Iowa senator Chuck Grassley.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped fashion the compromise, has already called for a deliberate committee process to make sure the bill gets a full vetting from all interested parties, but opponents of the bill have called for things to move even slower. 

On Tuesday, before the identities of the suspects were known, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a longtime critic of immigration reform, said the focus should be on national security now, and not on a path to citizenship.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who helped negotiate the proposed bill, appeared alongside Schumer on Sunday morning, and argued the bill will advance our national security.

"I think now is the time to bring all the 11 million out of the shadows and find out who they are," he said. "Most of them are here to work, but we may find some terrorists in our midst who have been hiding in the shadows."

Graham said the new law notifies law enforcement when immigrants overstay their visas, and Schumer made the case that the suspects might not have been allowed to enter under stricter laws for asylum-seekers.

"They might not have gotten asylum under the present law," Schumer said.

But Schumer, a Harvard Law grad, and Graham, a former military prosecutor, disagreed over whether the remaining suspect should be treated as an enemy combatant.

"I think that the good news is we don't need enemy combatant to get all the information we need out of him," said Schumer.

He suggested the public safety exception, which allows authorities to question a suspect without so much as a Miranda warning, would allow for a high-value interrogation group to "find out whatever they need." Those statements can't be used in court, but Schumer said there was "plenty of evidence."

"They don't need his confession to get him into trial," Schumer said. "So I don't think we have to cross the line and say he should be an enemy combatant which could be challenged in court."

Schumer was among several Democratic senators, including California's Dianne Feinstein, who urged the government to pursue the death penalty for the suspecut.

"Given the facts that I've seen it would be appropriate to use the death penalty in this case and I would hope they would apply it in federal court," said Schumer, who helped write the federal law when he headed a crime subcommittee in the House in 1994.

Schumer said the prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of orchestrating the attack at the Boston Marathon, is "just the kind of case that it should be applied to."