Will the Boston Bombings Jeopardize Immigration Reform?

The bombings at the Boston Marathon have brought into question whether immigration reform should really take place at this point in time. The suspected bombers, both foreign-born, have been cited as reasons why immigration laws should be stricter, and not more lax. Rep. Steve King (R-TX), for example, said on C-Span that there are Al Qaeda camps along the Mexican border that train radical Islamists to act like Hispanics. If immigration reform allows for people to immigrate more easily, how can we ensure that we are not allowing potential threats to national security into the country?

The Gang of Eight, consisting of the eight senators who are championing immigration reform, stated confidently that the Boston bombings serve to reiterate why immigration reform is actually necessary. Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Graham (R-S.C) released the following statement after the bombings: “In the wake of this week’s terrorist attack in Boston, some have already suggested that the circumstances of this terrible tragedy are justification for delaying or stopping entirely the effort for comprehensive immigration reform. In fact the opposite is true: Immigration reform will strengthen our nation’s security by helping us identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left-a basic function of government that our broken immigration system is incapable of accomplishing today. The status quo is unacceptable. We have 11 million people living in the shadows, which leaves this nation vulnerable to a myriad of threats. That is all the more reason why comprehensive immigration reform is so essential.”

While some argue that the fact that the Tsarnevs were immigrants should be used as a case to oppose reform, others are quick to cite that not only were the Tsarnevs legal immigrants, one of them had actually already become a US citizen. Since the Tsarnevs were legal immigrants, it was much easier to not only identify them, but also track their whereabouts after the bombings. Had they been undocumented, there may not have been a way of identifying them on the surveillance video, or the process may have been much lengthier.

On September 12, 2001, there was a scheduled hearing for the DREAM Act, which had originally been introduced in the Senate just a few months earlier. After September 11, 2001, however, not only was this hearing canceled, but no significant discussion on the DREAM Act would take place for years to come. After the Boston bombings, the question arose if we would see a repeat of this again, this time with the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. Yet, we have seen this to not be the case. Hearings for the bill have taken place and the Gang of Eight continues to push forward with their proposal. Though the bombings may affect the long-term discussions on the bill, they have not stopped its discussion and hearings. As one editorial in the Boston Globe read this week, “The Tsarnev brothers were many things, but they were not illegal immigrants. The Boston bombings shouldn’t be used to advance the cynical agendas of those opposing immigration reform.”

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