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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2013

Boston aftershock

A much-needed immigration bill has become part of the aftershock of the Boston bombings. Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), one of the bill’s sponsors, accused some of his colleagues of using the bombings as an excuse to delay or stop the measure from moving forward.

Whether or not some senators are exploiting another tragedy for political purposes, cooler heads must prevail. With emotions running high, this is no time for political pandering.

Overhauling the nation’s immigration system is too important, and complicated, to rush through. But that’s all the more reason to start the debate now. A path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants has nothing to do with a terrorism attack on U.S. soil.

In the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 180, the two suspects are foreign-born. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were members of an ethnic Chechen family that got asylum in 2002.

But the brothers were here legally. Dzhokhar, now in police custody, is a naturalized citizen. Tamerlan, whom police killed in a shootout, had a green card and was applying for citizenship.

Virtually all of the U.S. terrorist attacks over the past 40 years were committed by natural-born citizens or people who entered the country legally. Even most of the 9/11 hijackers obeyed the nation’s immigration laws.

Tougher background checks of people who apply for visas make sense, but the nation’s flawed immigration system is not the cause of terrorism. Those failings, however, have left millions of illegal immigrants in limbo, while they perform some of the nation’s dirtiest work. They have also penalized foreign-born young people who were brought here illegally but who are now Americans in every way but name.

Even in a time of calamity, Congress must do the people’s work in a rational and responsible manner. That means moving forward with long-delayed immigration reforms.

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