The right is perpetuating a myth that Tamerlan Tzarnaev, one of the suspected bombers who is now dead, was once in the grasp of immigration authorities and was ignored by the Obama administration. In reality, the decision to deport Tzarnaev would have been a judge’s to make in immigration court. But even before getting that far, nothing about either of the suspects’ pasts would have suggested they were terrorists, that they should have been deported, or that the Obama Administration had any contact with them.
Every argument the anti-immigrant movement is using about Tzarnaev relies on authorities being able to predict the future. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has said that preventing the 9/11 hijackers from getting driver’s licenses might have stopped the attacks. Nothing about wanting to drive says you want to be a terrorist, and neither does domestic violence. Neither does his previous charge represent a failure to enforce immigration policy.
At the time of his brother’s domestic violence charge in 2009, the other suspect, Dzhokhar Tzarnaev-who was captured late Friday night-was fifteen years old. How would he have been caught? While right-wing pundits would like to make a connection between the immigration status of these young men and their role in the bombing, there is none.
This bombing does not represent a failure in our immigration system. The only immigration system that would have prevented this attack is one that believes that all Muslims are potential terrorists and that security is worth the cost of civil liberties.
Fox News Latino ran a story on April 19th quoting Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies as saying, “What it shows is that immigration security is not divisible, that is, you can’t pick and choose what countries or group you’re going to pay lots of attention to. You can’t say, ‘We going [sic] to worry about people from Saudi Arabia, but not Russia.’” The question Krikorian purposefully fails to answer is why his immigration status matters at all; avoiding it, however, helps him say that we should be wary of all immigrants.
Everyone should remember just how tragically and dangerously wrong this group of anti-Muslim activists have been since the very beginning. Starting with an irresponsibly hasty story run by the New York Post claiming that there was a Saudi suspect in Boston police custody, Pamela Geller and Steven Emerson led the charge to summon the mob.
They succeeded: Steve King (R-IA) urged congress to halt their immigration reform efforts, citing Saudi Arabia as a threat. “We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing, he said to the National Review. “If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?”
After Boston police decisively refuted the claim and declared that he was not a suspect, Emerson took to Fox News to claim that he was being deported. The lie had to be refuted forcefully by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who after being challenged by South Carolina Representative Jeff Duncan with false information, said: “Like I said, again I don’t even think he was technically a person of interest or a suspect, that was a wash. And I am unaware of any proceeding there, I will clarify that for you, but I think this is an example of why it is so important to let law enforcement to do its job.” (Note: the story linked to above from the conservative Daily Caller also refers to the student as having been detained, which is also false).
The moment has presented the anti-immigrant movement an incredible opportunity to engender prejudice against not only Muslim immigrants or those from predominantly Muslim countries, but against all immigrants. We need to take head on those who hope to capitalize on the moment and stop the promotion of fear and prejudice.