Feature

Immigration: Are Boston bombings relevant?

The Tsarnaev brothers have become “the new poster kids of anti-immigrant sentiment.”

“Nobody thought immigration reform was going to be easy,” said Jurek Martin in FT.com. Well, it just got “that much harder.” After months of painstaking negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators last week unveiled the biggest immigration legislation since 1986, proposing a path to legal status and, ultimately, citizenship for 11 million people who entered the country illegally. But that breakthrough came in the same week that two Chechen immigrants apparently bombed the Boston Marathon, and the Tsarnaev brothers instantly became “the new poster kids of anti-immigrant sentiment.” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King led other opponents of reform in saying that since “foreign nationals” were involved in an act of terrorism, “it’s time to look at the big picture.”

King is absolutely right, said Lloyd Green in TheDailyBeast.com. The Boston attacks underscore an uncomfortable reality: Not everyone who comes to America wants to become an American. “Indeed, some immigrants want to kill us.” If immigration reform is to become law, then Congress needs to address this—starting by screening immigrants for ethnic or geographic ties to terrorism. The U.S. actually faces a deeper immigration dilemma, said Stanley Kurtz in NationalReview.com. Our country’s engine for “patriotic assimilation” seems to have broken down, with many immigrants remaining in cultural enclaves where resentment of America is rife. The Tsarnaev brothers are a case in point: Unable to bridge the gap “between their relatively unassimilated parents and their new cultural environment,” they turned to an alternative anchor: “radical Islam.” We need a wider debate on whether America can afford large-scale immigration without assimilation.

Here we go again, said Ruben Navarrette Jr. in CNN.com. In early September 2001, President George W. Bush was ready to unveil a plan to fix America’s broken immigration system. Then the country was attacked by foreigners who had been allowed to enter the country, and reform “was put so far onto the back burner it fell clear off the stove.” But any reasonable person can see “the Boston events have nothing to do with immigration reform,” said The New York Times in an editorial. The reform legislation actually makes us safer, encouraging 11 million people who are now in the shadows to register with the government, so we know who they are. If terrorists and drug traffickers “are sharp needles in the immigrant haystack, then shrink the haystack.”

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