As soon as it was revealed that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were immigrants from Chechnya—who had migrated as children, following conflict in the region—a predictable crew of conservatives pounced on that fact to disparage comprehensive immigration reform. Here’s Ann Coulter:
It’s too bad Suspect # 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now.
And also, conservative radio host Bryan Fischer:
I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.
On the other end of things, Iowa senator—and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—Chuck Grassley issued a statement pointing to the situation as example of how the United States needs to improve its immigration laws:
In his opening statement, Grassley also argued the Boston terror case can help strengthen immigration reform since “it will help shed light on the weaknesses in our system … [and] how can we beef up security checks on people who would enter the United States.”
The two suspects in the Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are brothers from the Caucasus region who emigrated to the United States with their family and became legal residents in 2007.
I’m more sympathetic to Grassley’s political objective than Fischer’s or Coulter’s, but the simple fact is that the situation in Boston has little to do with the “immigration system.” Both suspects were legal immigrants who came over as children—tougher background checks or more security wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy on Monday, or last evening’s shootout.
Indeed, short of constant surveillance and identity checks—in other words, a police state—it’s hard to think of anything that could have prevented it. There are costs and benefits to living in a free society, and one of the costs is the potential for mass violence, perpetrated by those who would exploit our openness. Yes, we should try as hard as we can to prevent said violence—terrorism or otherwise—but at a certain point, it’s not possible without curtailing the values we’re trying to protect.