Calls to Delay Immigration Reform Because of the Boston Bombing Offer a Lesson in Political Argument by Headline



It's hard to see calls to delay consideration of the immigration reform bill because of the Boston bombing as anything other than convenient political excuse making. People who opposed the immigration bill before the Boston attacks say they want it delayed because…well, they don't really say.  "We need to take a look at the big picture," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). "Just push it back a month or two," said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana). These aren't reasons at all. But these legislators opposed the bill before, and Boston offers an easy news hook on which to hang their opposition. It's political argument by headline: Whatever's making news must justify the position these legislators already held. 

Of course, it would be difficult to come up with a good reason to connect the two events. As Bloomberg View's Evan Soltas points out, the Boston bombing and the immigration bill just don't have much to do with each other. Calls to delay the bill don't really make sense. And neither, in turn, do calls to speed it up. Soltas talked to Edward Alden, an immigration policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations:  

"I don't think there's anything that could have been done through the immigration system that would have had any impact on this attack," Alden said. "And, conversely, I don't think there's anything in the immigration reform bill that would have any impact, either. It appears to be completely irrelevant, given the intelligence we have now on the Tsarnaev brothers."

"Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev emigrated from Russia to the U.S. with their parents at ages 8 and 15. Unless there's an immigration system that can detect potential for radicalization 11 years ahead," Alden said, "senators who bring up Boston are blowing smoke."

That's not to argue that the immigration framework is all great shakes. The push for workplace checks is worrisome, as is all the huffy chatter about increased border security. But anything that was worthwhile about the immigration overhaul before the Boston marathon bombing is still worthwhile. And conversely, problems that may have existed with the proposal before are still problems. But the Boston bombing provides no strong reason to slow down the process, or, for that matter, to speed it up.