The Politicizing Of Boston With Immigration Reform
It seems only fitting that I write this post today. On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord. It would be the start of a long, drawn-out war with Great Britain that would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. This past week, the eyes of the entire nation have once again been on the city of Boston... what was generally considered the cradle of the rebellion against the British monarchy. This time, though, it is because of act of violence that left three dead and over a hundred people injured. Authorities do have suspects. One of them is already deceased while the other remains at large at the time of this writing. However, I'm not actually here to discuss the bombing or the suspects directly, but an indirect consequence that all of this is having on a different discussion that is just now taking center stage in Washington... immigration reform.
How this connection is made is quite simple. The family of the suspects is from the Russian republic of Chechnya in the Caucuses region... an area that has been fighting with the Russian government for independence. However, both suspects were born in the country of Kyrgyzstan. One of the brothers came to the US in 2002 while the other arrived in 2004. Both were considered refugees from Chechnya. The youngest of the brothers had become a permanent resident of the US in 2011. This part of the immigration debate actually has to do with legal immigration instead of the illegal part that we so often discuss. The Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, tweeted, "Part of the 'national conversation' about Boston should include whether we suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. NOW." And liberal columnist for the The Atlanta Journal - Constitution, Cynthia Tucker, tweeted, "This smacks of the sort of terrorism that has plagued Britain, committed by legally-admitted but alienated residents. #BostonMarathon" Though both sides of the political spectrum seem to have some agreement with this, both couldn't be farther from the truth in this debate.
By Fischer's own comment, we are to completely stereotype an entire group of people and forbid them from coming to this country and living as ordinary, law-abiding citizens that contribute to our country and to our society because of the actions of these two men. Somehow, there seems to be a double standard to this on a couple of different levels. It's easy to find a scapegoat in this situation... to blame all Muslims and immigrants (even those that are non-Muslim) for the violent acts of these two suspects. However, one must wonder what Mr. Fischer would say be saying if they were Christian and from somewhere in Europe. Yes, they do exist, too. And contrary to what Ms. Tucker tweeted, Britain's problems haven't always been the influx of Muslim immigrants. It used to be the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) which was deemed a terrorist organization that bombed innocent people, and they were Christians. So should we not let Irish people immigrate to the US... or Christians for that matter... in case they might have terrorist intentions? I don't see anyone speaking up in favor of this. We tend to judge those types of immigrants on an individual basis, so why shouldn't we do that with Muslims still? What about Italian immigrants? It used to be that Italian immigrants made up parts of the mafia that would go around terrorizing the cities in which they lived. Should they be excluded from immigrating here because of past mistakes of people they have no connection with? Again, I don't see too many people speaking up in favor of this either.
And as much as people would like to infuse the debate on immigration reform into the Boston Marathon bombings... thus politicizing it, these same people are still forgetting about American citizens (people that are born here as US citizens) that commit acts of terrorism. We are turning a blind eye to this part of the conversation. If we are to deny an entire group of people legal immigration status because of the action of two people, should we not stereotype our own citizens with the same levels of hatred? The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph. He was an American... not an immigrant. He belonged to the Christian Identity movement which is a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization. Though not an immigrant, should his acts be held against other Christians? What about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing? Should white men not be allowed to rent moving trucks because of the horrible act this man committed? In both of these questions, any rational person that is not speaking with absolute fear would answer 'no.'
The problem with stereotyping a group of people is that it is only done out of fear and has no place in rational, logical discussions. Fischer went on to tweet later in the day, "I think we can safely say that Rubio's amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy." So again, his thought process is that the violent and hateful acts should also be placed on other legal immigrants just because they are immigrants. I would also hazard a bet that he also speaks out heavily on illegal immigration. The problem with that is that we can't deal with illegal immigration unless we deal with the broken legal immigration system. And by tightening it to the point to where he'd possibly be satisfied, it would probably only exacerbate the illegal immigration situation. In this particular instance, you can't have it both ways. And he also forgets one tidbit of additional information... that these two suspects were refugees. The US has a different set of policies when it comes to refugees from war-torn areas than just people wanting to immigrate to our country. Should we be stopping all refugees from entering our country? While the Bosnian War raged on during the 1990s, the US took in thousands of Bosnian refugees. I live in a city where many of these refugees have settled. They are peaceful, law-abiding people that have worked hard to be a part of our society. Since coming here, they have opened up new "mom and pop" businesses and have worked to add their culture to our own. If a couple of them had been bad seeds in the way that the two suspects in Boston have been, does that mean we should have stopped allowing them to come into our country? Absolutely not. And what about the ones that were already here? Would we have kicked them out, or would they be allowed to stay? The problem with stereotyping as I am seeing done, as it is being injected into the immigration debate, is that it doesn't hold up in an actual rational debate. When people start speaking (or tweeting) this utter-nonsense, it just shows that they are afraid. Terrorism lives on fear... but it can't win when there is courage. And one of the best things I saw that day in Boston was the courage of those who rushed toward the scene to help those who needed it the most. We must always be diligent, but we must not give in to fear. Terrorism can't win so long as there is courage to combat the fear, and stereotypes can't win so long as there is logical, rational thought to defeat it.
The second suspect is now in police custody. Keep in mind, he is still considered a suspect. Under the US Constitution, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The task now falls onto the state to get him convicted.