WASHINGTON — Two senators who helped write bipartisan immigration legislation said Sunday that the Boston Marathon bombings should expedite an overhaul of the system rather than stall it.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union’’ that the bombings that left three dead ‘‘should urge us to act quicker, not slower when it comes to getting the 11 million identified,’’ referring to the estimated number of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, who also appeared on the CNN program, said keeping the status quo is not a very good argument, given what happened in Boston.
Schumer said critics are using the bombings to oppose a proposal they disliked from the start. He said that if they have suggestions to make the proposal better, they should speak up.
On Friday, Charles E. Grassley, a senior Iowa Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is debating the plan submitted by a bipartisan group of eight senators, said the Boston attacks should figure into that debate.
Some conservative commentators and congressional Republicans want to shift the focus away from economic and humanitarian concerns to border security and the potential threat from terrorists entering the country.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, the older brother suspected in the Boston bombings, had an application for US citizenship placed on hold after the FBI questioned him on potential Islamic extremist ties.
Tsarnaev, who was shot to death by police on Friday, was a legal permanent US resident.
His younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, who is in custody, became a naturalized US citizen in 2012.
The Tsarnaev brothers and their two sisters came to the United States from the Russian region of Dagestan in 2002, after leaving the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. They followed their parents, who had been granted political asylum in the United States.
Grassley opened a hearing on the immigration legislation Friday by stressing that the issue was important ‘‘particularly in light of all that’s happening in Massachusetts right now and over the last week.’’
“Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,’’ Grassley said in his opening statement. ‘‘While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system.’’
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, who is part of a group working on similar immigration legislation in the House, criticized Grassley’s remarks. “Linking something like that to other legislation I think is probably not appropriate at this time,’’ Diaz-Balart said.