Don’t put off immigration reform

April 27, 2013

Imagine that one fine, sunny day, you’re strolling down the boulevard, you trip on an uneven portion of the sidewalk, and break your wrist when you’re trying to catch yourself.

You decide right then and there that something must be done. And the action that must be taken is changing air traffic regulations.

Of course, the rules on how airplanes criss-cross the heavens have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with walking on neighborhood sidewalks, though you could make the very feeble argument that the two things involve movement.

But that’s exactly the kind of confusing, murky and muddled case some lawmakers are making on immigration reform in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings almost two weeks ago.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a fast-rising star in the GOP firmament, urged the Senate to delay any action in the wake of the attack and that any immigration measure “must prevent immigrants with malicious intent from using our immigration system.” Other legislators have argued that reform should be put off until the emotions stirred by the bombings and the manhunt for suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have settled.

But the issues that immigration reform would most urgently address – namely, our porous southern border and the thousands of undocumented immigrants working on our farms and in our factories, but with no path to citizenship – have absolutely zero connection to the Tsarnaev brothers, who came to the United States with their family in 2002 to escape strife in the Russian Caucasus. One was aged 9 and the other was 16. There’s no conceivable immigration system that could have stopped what the Tsarnaevs are alleged to have done, short of crystal balls and soothsayers.

As Michael Tomasky pointed out on the Daily Beast website, “Tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of minors – many of them Muslim – have immigrated legally to the United States since 1986, the last time immigration law was substantially changed. Some of them are no doubt reprobates or drunks or criminals, but surely some are cardiologists, inventors, successful capitalists, and innovative artists. But suddenly, these two guys and these two guys alone offer some kind of proof of the need to crack down.”

And, as Tomasky and others have pointed out, the urge to rethink our immigration laws to ward off those who might, at some point in their adulthood, develop “malicious intent” toward their adopted homeland has taken on an air of urgency to some, while – mostly to this same crowd – our gun laws require absolutely no rethinking, period, end of discussion. The massacre of elementary school students, their teachers or any other innocents is just something that must be endured, like a force of nature, in the name of the Second Amendment.

In The Washington Post last week, columnist Eugene Robinson pointed out, “Imagine what our laws would be like if the nation were losing 30,000 lives each year to Islamist terrorism. Do you think for one minute that a young man named, say, Abdullah or Hussein – or Tsarnaev – would be able to go to a gun show and buy a semiautomatic AR-15 knockoff with a 30-round clip, no questions asked?”

Now that we think about it, deciding to stall or shelve immigration reform in the wake of the Boston bombing is not unlike, after 9/11, deciding to invade Iraq, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with that atrocity.

And we all know how that turned out.



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