What Boston Means for Immigration Policy

Marathon-bombing suspects No. 1 and No. 2 (AP/Bob Leonard)



Rather, there will be a great deal of political pressure to clear the “backlog” of legalization-seekers as quickly as possible. And though the possibility may not have occurred to Senator Graham, would-be terrorists are just as likely to take their chances staying illegal in a highly liberalized enforcement environment as to submit to federal background screening under the Gang of Eight bill.

While our piecemeal enforcement at the borders is a national scandal, those who enter the country legally but overstay their visas account for some 40 percent of illegals. The Gang of Eight bill would require the executive to establish a system of visa controls to address this problem. The problem is this: Congress passed a law requiring that very thing 17 years ago, and has on multiple occasions restated its demand that the law be enforced. So far, nothing doing. That pattern is characteristic of our immigration system in toto: a very fine collection of laws enforced in the most desultory fashion by a government beholden to business interests and ethnic lobbies hostile to the law as written. A government that was serious about restoring its credibility on the issue would at the very least get control of the border and fulfill Congress’s 17-year-old visa-control mandate without attaching a destructive amnesty to the package. Likewise, Janet Napolitano’s proposal for using improved passport technology to track those who come and go across our borders is a very fine idea on its own, no amnesty necessary. But the amnesty is the centerpiece here: To the bill’s proponents, everything else is an afterthought.

The Boston attack is far from irrelevant to the immigration debate. From the failures of law enforcement to the failures of assimilation, the case of the Tsarnaev brothers points both to what is wrong with our existing immigration system and what is wrong with the Gang of Eight’s plan to reform it.