In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, now presumed to have been orchestrated and carried out by people originally born in Chechnya, anti-immigration commentators are calling for a stop to anything resembling immigration reform.
Here's Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online in a piece called "Boston and Immigration Reform: Yes, It's Relevant." While granting that "the number of immigrants who might someday turn into terrorists is small," Kurtz argues that the Boston case underscores the rotten core at the heart of contemporary immigration:
Thanks to the rise of multiculturalism and bilingualism in the United States, our assimilation system now suffers from the same flaws as its European counterpart. The proposed immigration bill does little to fix this, and if anything aggravates an already critical situation….
Terrorism is only an extreme symptom of a far larger problem. A massive new wave of only superficially assimilated citizens would undercut the shared civic beliefs that have long held America together. On top of that, the new wave of Republican support for immigration reform assumes a pattern of assimilation that is no longer typical of this country.
So the Boston bombings are a wake-up call that ought to place the broader issue of assimilation at the center of our immigration debate.
Kurtz—and anti-immigration conservatives—are hardly alone. Indeed, Kurtz high-fives the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum for writing a column titled "The connection between Boston and Europe's train bombers," in which Applebaum speculates that the Tsarnaev brothers "closely resemble…the second-generation European Muslims" who turn violent against their adopted homelands.
Kurtz points to a new Hudson Institute report on immigrant attitudes that says "America's Patriotic Assimilation System is Broken" and argues "there can be no comprehensive immigration reform without comprehensive assimilation reform" (emphasis in original). The report is interesting to read through and documents that more native-born Americans than new citizens know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and think that learning English is "very important for the future of the American political system." The authors also make great hay over the fact that, according to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll of 2,421 Americans commissioned by one of the authors, native-born Americans are far more likely to see themselves as a "citizen of the U.S." than as a "citizen of the world." Imagine that! Here was the question they were asked:
Do you think of yourself more as: A citizen of the United States; A citizen of the world; Not sure.
About 85 percent of native-born Americans picked the U.S., with 12 percent choosing the world, and about 4 percent saying "not sure." For naturalized citizens, the responses were 54 percent, 29 percent, and 17 percent. The Hudson study also reports (but doesn't linger) on this finding that naturalized citizens are more proud of "being American" than natives, other than to note that "a larger percentage of native-born respondents are 'very proud' to be Americans." Hmm.
In any case, the Hudson study isn't yoking recent terrorist attacks—about which very little is known, including the motivations of the bombers—to comprehensive immigration reform, which is mostly about figuring out how to create a system that doesn't yield 10 million to 12 million living illegally in the country. No, leave that to long-time immigration restrictionists at places such as National Review. Kurtz cites in passing the former British editor of NR, John O'Sullivan, who published a series of increasingly strident anti-immigration screeds throughout the 1990s by Peter Brimelow, the founder of Vdare.com, a site as dedicated to an "immigration moratorium now" as it is to defending the "beautiful face" of Miss Heather Locklear. And to folks at the Washington Post. What strange company.
To say immigration—much less immigration reform, especially policies that actually bring legal processes in line with demonstrated demand—is controversial is to state the obvious.
So is the sadly lightning-fast willingness to link any news event—including a horrifying act such as the Boston Marathon bombing—to basically irrelevant yet longstanding policy obsessions. If the Tsarnaev brothers had snapped after sneaking across the border from Mexico and picking strawberries in California for a decade, their case might (might) bear some weight on talks about how to reform immigration writ large. But as it stands—and in this, I'm sure most NR contributors and readers would agree—their actions bear about as much relevance to immigration policy as Adam Lanza's do to gun control debates.
And as long as we're talking about immigration, check out Reason's latest ebook, Humane and Pro-Growth: a Reason Guide to Immigration Reform," which is edited by Shikha Dalmia and contains a wide-ranging, data-rich collection of articles, graphics, and columns on how to fix immigration policy in a way will be a boon to immigrants, Americans, and the economy.
Update: Via the Twitter feed of @ConnCarroll comes this Hill story in which anti- and pro-immigration reform members of the Senate argue that the Boston bombing perfectly proves their longstanding views.