Five Reasons Boston Has Nothing to Do with Immigration Reform

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration reform yesterday.

Shortly after Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated bombs near the finish line at the Boston marathon, killing 3 people and injuring over 200, conservatives opposed to immigration reform began exploiting the tragedy. Their goal?  Derailing or delaying the 844-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The bombings cast a pall over hearings on the immigration bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, where Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano fielded questions about the asylum process used by the boys' family to enter the country. Questions were also posed about the Department of Homeland Security's entry-exit system, which tracked the older of the two brothers' six-month trip to Russia, but not his re-entry.

Republican senator Rand Paul sent a letter to House Majority Leader Harry Reid saying Congress "should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system." At the committee hearing itself, Republican senator Chuck Grassley said the attacks serve as "reminders that our immigration system is directly related to our sovereignty and national security matters." He criticized the bill as putting "legalization first, enforcement later." 

At a basic level it is, as Vermont senator Patrick Leahy pointed out in opening the hearings on immigration reform, unfair to "derail the dreams and futures of millions of hardworking people" on account of two troubled young men. While attacks such as the Boston bombings—committed by two foreign-born U.S. residents—naturally stoke fear and suspicion of outsiders, such reactionary sentiment should not drive public policy. The vast majority of the 700,000 naturalized immigrants and 50,000 asylum-seekers each year are law-abiding and pose no threat to national security. The same is true of the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. Rather than having true concern for national security, those who seek to exploit the Boston attacks to derail immigration reform are doing so for purely political reasons. Here are the five reasons why their concerns are nonsense.


1. No reasonable change to our immigration laws would have stopped the Tsarnaevs.

As numerous commentators have pointed out, there is no reasonable change to the immigration system that would have stopped Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev from becoming radicalized and carrying out the attacks in Boston. Both came to the United States as children after their family was granted asylum. They were both in the country legally—one was a permanent resident, the other a naturalized citizen. There is no screening process that would have predicted the pair would grow up to carry out these attacks. 

Immigration reform critics also lambast the system for failing to catch the older brother when he left the country for a six-month trip to Russia. Yesterday, Napolitano seemed to contradict earlier FBI testimony when she said the system had indeed "pinged" Tamerlan Tsarnaev when he exited the U.S. in 2012. It is unclear on what basis Tamerlan was flagged, but administration officials have indicated that he made it onto the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database, which tracks suspected international terrorists. But if Napolitano's testimony is correct, it shows the real failure was the FBI's. The Bureau was warned by the Russian government in 2011 that the older brother had become a follower of radical Islam and planned to travel abroad to "join unspecified underground groups." The FBI interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members, but did not find evidence of terrorism. Because of redundancies in the immigration system, Tamerlan's exit from the country was noted by the Department of Homeland Security despite his name being misspelled on an airline manifest, but by the time he returned, the FBI's alert had expired. 

Short of ending the asylum program—which would be a humanitarian disaster—or subjecting international travelers to invasive searches and extensive questions—which would be an inconvenience, if not an outright violation of civil liberties—the immigration system could not have been expected to detect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's radicalization or his plot to place bombs at the Boston marathon.


2. Terrorism has little to do with illegal border crossings.

Almost all of the terrorist plots foiled by investigators since 9/11 have not been discovered because of visa irregularities or problems with entering or exiting the country. Law-enforcement investigations stopped them. To take the most recent examples, last year the FBI arrested Amine El Khalifi after revealing a plot to bomb the U.S. Capitol to undercover agents. Similarly, undercover law officers intercepted would-be Federal Reserve bomber Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, who believed he was acting on an order from al-Qaeda in detonating a dummy 1,000-pound bomb. 

In addition, as Dylan Matthews at The Washington Post points out, there doesn't appear to be a strong link between illegal entries into the country and terrorism. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, a mere 2.8 percent of the total 1,532 terrorist attacks since 1970 have involved suspects crossing the border. The vast majority of terrorists are domestic; about half are committed by U.S. citizens. While Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev clearly shared views with foreign terrorist groups, their attack could as easily be considered as a religiously motivated act of domestic terror. Would-be terrorists are likely to follow rules closely to avoid detection, and the immigration process is not the most likely place they will raise flags. 


3. Immigration reform would improve security by allowing law enforcement to focus on criminals.

As Napolitano pointed out frequently in her testimony yesterday, the legalization program contained in the Immigration Modernization Act would reduce the strain on law enforcement and allow the department to focus its resources on dangerous criminals and suspects of terrorism rather than run-of-the-mill violations of immigration law. While the Obama administration has asked DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deportation proceedings, the system is nevertheless overburdened with cases involving economic refugees who pose no threat to national security and want nothing other than to work in the United States. What's more, by requiring the undocumented to come forward and register with the government, the legalization program would arm DHS with more information about who is coming in and out of the country. By legalizing the undocumented, "We know who they are. We know where they are," as Napolitano said yesterday. "And by the way, from a police perspective, once these people know that every time they interact with law enforcement they won't be subject to removal, it will help with the reporting of crimes, the willingness to be a witness and so forth."

The bill also allocates $4.5 billion for improving border security, getting a biometric entry-exit system—one that employs non-falsifiable identifiers such as fingerprints—up and running, and expanding background checks. It also provides for substantial investment in new technologies to patrol the border. It is unlikely any of those improvements would have led DHS to detain or question either of the suspected Boston bombers, but improved biometric identification could have made it harder for the 9/11 hijackers to use forged documents to enter the country. For those who care about security, there is no greater boon to law enforcement than the provisions contained in this bill.


4. Those who want to derail immigration reform because of the Boston bombings don't support the bill anyway.

It may seem obvious to the cynical political observer, but conservatives urging the Gang of Eight to delay or halt their bill were opposed to reform even before the Boston attacks. Their opposition is not a considered policy response to the tragedy, but a craven political tactic. Members of anti-immigration groups such as Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies—two groups at the forefront of the opposition—have long opposed anything other than "self-deportation" for the undocumented. Senator Rand Paul has at best been fickle on immigration, swaying with the political winds; he has intermittently opposed birthright citizenship, supported legalizing the undocumented, and now once again opposes moving forward with reform. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect that such a major piece of legislation will be free of political chicanery, but it is important to note that Boston-inspired opposition to immigration reform is not borne of sincere concern for Americans' security.


5. The Obama administration has done more than any other administration to beef up border security.

A related criticism made by opponents of immigration reform is that the Boston bombing shows that President Obama has been lax on enforcement. To the contrary, the current administration has done more to enforce immigration law than any previous administration. The number of border agents has doubled to more than 21,000 over the past eight years, the administration has deported undocumented immigrants at record rates, expanded the fence along the Southern border, and invested in drones and other high-tech enforcement aides. According to a recent report from the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the United States now spends $18 billion per year on immigration enforcement—more than the sum total of all other federal law-enforcement efforts combined. Current enforcement efforts are unprecedented, and far exceed the enforcement requirements laid out in the 2007 immigration bill. Further adding to this investment, the current proposal would allocate $3 billion to hire 3,500 additional border-patrol agents as well as invest in technology. Another $1.5 billion is earmarked to improve the fence along the southern border. 

Our immigration system serves dual humanitarian and national-security purposes. Some opponents of reform see these as conflicting goals, but they're not. By setting unreasonably low caps on visas and failing to account for the economic demands of U.S. business, the current system has incentivized immigrants to break the law and created a massive population about which we have little information. Only a mass legalization program can rectify that problem and allow DHS to focus its efforts on national security. In what universe does killing reform efforts further the goal of improving the security of the system?


Clearly point #1 is not close to correct. Reasonable review of asylum requests would certainly (at least hopefully?) reveal as false claims from someone who profess that they are in danger at home, then return regularly for extended stays. The terrorist family should not have been granted asysum.


Judicial Watch, a leading legal Conservative organization has just uncovered a concealed program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the USDA, although hesitant to comply released a documents that the U.S. government has been complicit in since 2006. They were spending taxpayer money to run Spanish-language television ads encouraging illegal immigrants to apply for government-financed food stamps. a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions questioned the Obama administration’s partnership with Mexican consulates to encourage foreign nationals, migrant workers and non-citizen immigrants to apply for food stamps and other USDA administered welfare benefits. Sessions wrote, “It defies rational thinking, for the United States – now dangerously near $17 trillion in debt – to partner with foreign governments to help us place more foreign nationals on American welfare and it is contrary to good immigration policy in the United States.”

The documents, obtained by Judicial Watch in August 2012, include the following:
• March 30, 2012 – The USDA seeks approval of the Mexican Embassy in drafting a letter addressed to consulates throughout the United States designed to encourage Mexican embassy staffers to enroll in a webinar learn how to promote increased enrollment among “the needy families that the consulates serve.”

• August 1, 2011 – The USDA FNS initiates contact with the Mexican Embassy in New York to implement programs already underway in DC and Philadelphia for maximizing participation among Mexican citizens. The Mexican Embassy responds that the Consul General is eager to strengthen his ties to the USDA, with specific interest in promoting the food stamp program.

• February 25, 2011 – The USDA and the Mexican Consulate exchange ideas about getting the First Ladies of Mexico and United States to visit a school for purposes of creating a photo opportunity that would promote free school lunches for low-income students in a predominantly Hispanic school. Though a notation in the margin of the email claims that the photo op never took place, UPI reported that it actually did.

• March 3, 2010 – A flyer advertises a webinar to teach Hispanic-focused nonprofits how to get reimbursed by the USDA for serving free lunch over the summer. The course, funded by American taxpayers, is advertised as being “free for all participants.”

• February 9 , 2010 – USDA informs the Mexican Embassy that, based on an agreement reached between the State Department and the Immigration & Naturalization Service (now ICE), the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) food voucher program does not violate immigration laws prohibiting immigrants from becoming a “public charge.”

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that USDA officials are working closely with their counterparts at the Mexican Embassy to widely broaden the SNAP program in the Mexican immigrant community, with no effort to restrict aid to, identify, or apprehend illegal immigrants who may be on the food stamp rolls. In an email to Borjon Lopez-Coterilla and Jose Vincente of the Mexican Embassy, dated January 26, 2012, Yibo Wood of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sympathized with the plight of illegal aliens applying for food stamps, saying, “FNS understands that mixed status households may be particularly vulnerable. Many of these households contain a non-citizen parent and a citizen child.”

So it illustrates that a silent conspiracy has been going on for years, using taxpayers money funneled from the U.S. government to illegal aliens whether in the United States or not? To me and the millions of Americans without this is a incredulous traitorous move, that defies logic. This is a seditious secret activity and Americans who are being taxed to serve the interests of a corrupt foreign country need to be held accountable.

We need a National ID biometric card to stop illegal aliens through fraud collecting food stamps and other welfare programs. To me this would be more effective than E-Verify and businesses that don’t comply with the law should receive a mandatory prison sentence.

Americans must demand the double layer fencing that stretches completely from East to West, with skin tearing barbed wire attired at the top. Known as the 2006 Secure Act, this fence was underhandedly deconstructed by Senator Kay bailey Hutchinson.

No more civil misdemeanor for entering America without inspection, but instead should be facing a mandatory FELONY conviction.

The BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP must be changed, so only children of U.S. citizens ARE entitled to citizenship. Forget the USDA stealth program, offering food stamps to just about everybody including illegal people who arrive here by plane and disappear without being tracked, or the millions who cross the international border and also vanish. Giving automatic citizenship to the progeny of thousands of “foothold” babies is drowning America in hundreds of billions of dollars in debt. What the Liberal Democrats don’t tell you about this important issue, is the citizenship clause was to award citizenship to slaves, not foreigners babies. The sad truth is a family with 3 babies of illegal immigrants gets the food stamps, which other in the family circle share, plus cash payments and government housing. The government mask the foreign nationals as low income.
Everyone these four issues if implemented into the Opportunity and
Immigration Modernization Act would be a massive financial boon for the
shrinking dollars deficits, in the state or federal
funds as well as the U.S. Taxpayer. CONTACT YOUR TWO U.S. SENATORS TODAY and urge them to oppose
S.744! You can call the Capitol Terminal board toll-free at 1-888-978-3094.
Learn more about this new potential Immigration Reform Bill, in relation to the
huge fraudulent 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act at as
well in petitioning your arguments and standing on this new law. INSIST NO PATH
TO CITIZENSHIP? A free petition is available on and read the huge amounts of daily information disclosed on American This is the articles, blogs and media reports that is a must read. Learn so much more about illegal immigration bills at Judicial As I have said many times before, I see no problem for an increase for extra visas for STEM workers, PhDs and cream of the crop—so to speak, as long as there is a serious effort, to locate the same highly skilled workers already here. But before anything as extra visas, AGjobs are available, we must have a tracking system, so they can be detained if they abscond from a farm or other labor that supposedly Americans will not do. However, none of these new complex reforms can happen, until we are assured that a real fence is constructed and the above mentioned policies?

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