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Albany Legal Blog

Will the Boston Marathon Bombings Derail Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2013 | Immigration


“Keep your eye on the ball.”  My children are way too young to use this expression yet, but I can’t wait until their first batting practice, or their first shot on the driving range.  For now, though, I’m going to use this expression as a metaphor for what’s going on in Washington, D.C., and specifically comments that some on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have made with respect to comprehensive immigration reform and the unspeakable tragedy that played out before our very eyes in Boston last week.

First and foremost, the events that took place in Boston, Cambridge and Watertown last week were horrific.  We saw the tragic events unfold literally in front of our own eyes.  Mercifully, it’s over, and the healing (along with the prosecutions and continued investigations) can begin.

The “Brothers Tsarnaev” committed terrible crimes.  One has already paid the ultimate penalty.  One will now be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Although the facts are still unclear about how they actually came to the United States (at least publically anyway), we do know that they were both here lawfully, having gone through some part of our current immigration process (e.g., deriving benefits from their father’s application for political asylum)… all of which would have included extensive background checks.

Last Friday, Sen. Charles Grassley, the Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil?  How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.?  How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?”

In response, the N.Y. Times published an editorial specifically addressing Sen. Grassley’s (and other’s) attempts to link the tragic events in Boston and the debate on immigration reform.  “The immigration debate will test the resilience of the reform coalition in Congress. Changes so ambitious require calm, thoughtful deliberation, and a fair amount of courage. They cannot be allowed to come undone with irrelevant appeals to paranoia and fear.”

Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart had this to say: “It is a horrible situation. It is heart-wrenching. … Linking something like that to other legislation I think is probably not appropriate at this time. In the first place, we don’t have the facts. And what is indisputable, is that we have an immigration system that is broken; that we have an immigration system that is not working.”  Republican congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently stated the following: “We have a broken immigration system, and if anything, what we see in Boston is that we have to fix and modernize our immigration system for lots of reasons. National security reasons, economic security reasons. For all those reasons we need to fix our broken immigration system.”

My father always says there’s no such thing as perfection, except in the dictionary.  Our immigration system is far from perfect.  The Gang of Eight’s proposal for immigration reform is not perfect, but it’s a very good and very necessary start.  The Albany Times Union published an editorial this morning stating, in part, “[t]his bill, warts and all, is the best hope for immigration reform that a system of political give-and-take is likely to produce.”  I agree.  The editorial went on to say “[i]t’s reasonable to say that if the bombing exposed weaknesses in our system, we should fix them.”  I agree with that too.

Please, everyone, keep your eye on the ball, and let’s get this done.