Obama’s Psychodramas
Unlike Sandy Hook and gun control, the Tsarnaev case teaches real lessons about immigration.


Victor Davis Hanson

The checkered immigrant family of the two Boston bombers is a tragic advertisement of almost everything wrong with our current immigration policy. The idea of life-saving asylum doesn’t make any sense when supposed refugees, like both of the Tsarnaev parents, can return to live safely in Russia. The elder of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan, himself had likewise just spent six months in a supposedly deadly homeland — for what exact reasons we can only speculate. Do our immigration authorities really believe that Russia is so dangerous for Muslims that they must be allowed unquestioned admission to the United States, but not so dangerous that they cannot from time to time choose to revisit their deadly place of birth?

Can a resident alien no longer be summarily deported for breaking the laws of his host country — in the case of the skilled boxer Tamerlan, for domestic violence against his non-boxing wife, or, in the case of his mother, for shoplifting over $1,600 in merchandise?

Does being on public assistance years after arrival in this country, like the Tsarnaev family, no longer qualify a resident alien for deportation?

Does being investigated by the FBI for apparently loud and public expressions of support for anti-American radical jihadists not mean much?

In short, if a Tamerlan Tsarnaev cannot be deported, then perhaps no resident alien can be under any circumstances.

I am sure that in theory there are all sorts of laws to the effect that asylum seekers must prove that they would be in constant peril in their homelands (cf. Obama’s Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Onyango), that they must become self-sufficient residents of the United States (cf. Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Onyango), that they must not break American laws (cf. Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Onyango), and that they must not promote anti-American activity. But what do such theoreticals matter if, for reasons of laxity or political correctness or connectedness, these statutes are ignored — and, in the Boston case, ignored to a degree that led to murder and mayhem on a vast scale?

These paradoxes will resonate with those skeptical of comprehensive immigration reform. We expect boilerplate and loud administration assertions of border security, well-publicized benchmarks for self-sufficiency, grand talk of the avoidance of crime, and continued emphasis on long-term residence, but — once de facto amnesty is conceded — all these requirements, like most of current immigration law, will not be worth the paper they are written on.

One final thought about the political use and abuse of contemporary horror. This generation of Americans has a propensity to prefer the showy and dramatic — but ultimately irrelevant — response to crises as psychosocial compensation for the fear or inability to embrace a useful, but difficult or controversial, remedy. We don’t dare deal with the felony, so we strut about addressing the misdemeanor. When deranged shooters strike, go after the NRA, but do not get near Hollywood, the mental-health industry, or the illegally obtained handguns of the inner city.

When a hurricane strikes, provide more borrowed money for failed wind and solar programs, but do not dare promote fracking on public lands, which might radically reduce carbon emissions. Talk loudly of immigration reform, but only in the therapeutic sense of granting amnesties to the deserving, and never in the tragic sense of deporting the undeserving. As with the parents of wayward adolescents, saying yes wins smiles and saying no does not.

We know this much about this therapeutic and dishonest age: When the next horrific act occurs, one of two things will follow. Either we will rush to pass laws that will make us feel good but do nothing to address the existential crisis. Or we will be silent about enacting reforms of our existing flawed laws that might have prevented the horror, but would make us feel far too uncomfortable.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear next month from Bloomsbury Books.