What do conversations about immigration reform and the Boston Marathon have in common? One oblivious to the sheer, pervasive racism present in all conversations about policy in the United States will say “nothing.” Representative Gohmert (R-Texas), of course, begs to differ: Think Progress reports that Gohmert said, “We know Al-Qaeda has camps on the Mexican border. We have people that are trained to act Hispanic when they are radical Islamists.”
Other representatives, including Steve King (R-Iowa), expressed similar opinions, arguing that immigration reform should slow down, citing the tenuous connection between immigration reform and the Boston Marathon bombing. The “Gang of 8” that crafted the immigration reform bill has gone public with the proposed bill, and it must pass, though it might not be ideal. King and Gohmert’s opportunistic response to the Boston Marathon demonstrates not only the inherent racism that undergirds our discussions of public policy, but the willingness of our national policymakers to stoop to new lows in the face of horror.
The Boston Marathon tragedy will reverberate through conversations about American foreign policy and national security for years to come. Yet with zero information about who the culprits are, from their nationality to their political affiliation, representatives like Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) are making racist and offensive statements that use the bombings at the Boston Marathon to further their own political agendas.
Perhaps what is saddest about Gohmert’s comments is that they simply are not surprising: they reflect the ignorance and the systemic racism of the American people, and typify the willingness of our elected officials to regurgitate that racism in order to push their political agenda. From the Saudi man who was tackled for “acting suspiciously” after fleeing the bombs alongside everyone else in the area, to the litany of racist tweets that occurred after the bombings without any particular group or organization identified as culprit, the racism bubbling just below the surface of our national public discourse comes boiling up whenever a national crisis comes to head.
There is no connection between the Boston Marathon and our national immigration crisis that we know of, and whether a person with a visa, an undocumented person, or a born and bred American citizen committed this atrocity, our immigration system is still deeply unfair to the millions of people living in this country without the benefits (or opportunity to receive) citizenship and in need of comprehensive reform.