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Rep. Steve King: Pause needed on immigration reform bill

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Republican Rep. Steve King says Congress should delay debate on immigration reform until it learns more about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and how they immigrated to the U.S.

“We have a real reason in front of us to step back and look at all the things and methods of which people come into this country for whatever their motive is,” the conservative Iowa lawmaker told C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Thursday. “This (bombing case) illustrates the openness of the visas we have.”

The bombing suspects, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, initially came to the United States as children on legal visas before becoming permanent residents. Dzhokhar eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen, while Tamerlan’s citizenship application was pending at the time of last week’s bombing.

Mr. King added that many of the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came to the U.S. on legal visitors visas.

The lawmaker said federal agencies don’t have the means to adequately keep tabs on when legal residents who aren’t U.S. citizens take trips outside the country.

“There’s just simply not a means to go back and check and see if they’re going back home again,” he said. “We passed a law to get that done — and entry/exit visa system — but we only have the entry, not the exit” component in place.

He blamed President Obama for the failure of the system, saying “the resources would be there if the administration were willing to put it in place.”

“I don’t think we need to grant amnesty to 11 (million) or 20 million people just to get an entry/exist visa system in place. That seems to be the bargain from the administration, however.”

Mr. King said what while he expects the Senate to pass an immigration reform bill, the Boston bombings have cooled momentum. And if a compromise measure does clear the upper chamber, the Republican-led House will be ready to change or challenge it.

“I think enough Republicans have bought into it in the Senate … (but) the momentum they created there will be slowed down by a very intense battle in the Senate,” he said. “The Boston bombings caused a lot more focus on the national security side of this debate than what we would’ve seen otherwise.”

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