On Friday morning, many awoke to a traumatic development in Boston’s week of terror: just three days after the Boston Marathon bombings — in which three people were killed and hundreds injured — gunfire erupted in nearby Watertown and police were caught in a firestorm of bullets and explosives.
Boston residents remain on lockdown as SWAT teams, the FBI, and local law enforcement sweep neighborhoods in search of Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, just 19-years-old. Accomplice and older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is already dead.
And yet while the nation reels from shock over the paralyzing last 24 hours, conservative policymakers and pundits decided to exploit the tragic Boston events for political gain. The immigration history and status of the Tsarnaev brothers is now suddenly a platform to rest the evils of immigration reform.
The decision to fuel backlash against immigration reform by utilizing the nationalities of the Boston Marathon bombers is not only ineffective but serves the shallow purpose of fear mongering. Constituents across the U.S. deserve a realistic and productive debate on immigration — to push the Boston terror attacks as evidence against wider immigration policies is misguided and degrading.
The theme of the message is obvious: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are foreign nationals and their terrorism is proof that a pathway for undocumented residents of the U.S. is dangerous — even negligent. This morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) forced the Boston bombers into policy discussions under the guise of relevance.
“We appreciate the ability to talk about immigration, particularly in light of the events in Boston.”
Grassley went on to remark that current “loopholes and gaps” may have played a role in the Boston bombings – comments that hinted the Tsarnaev brothers destined for terrorism from the time they immigrated to the U.S. as children and stricter immigration laws may have prevented their actions. (Dzhokhar was around 9-years-old and Tamerlan was 16-years-old when the came to the U.S.).
Ann Coulter chimed in with a snide remark via her Twitter account on the perils of reform, “It’s too bad Suspect # 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now.”
Her comment was met with much hostility.
Conservative radio host Bryan J. Fisher also took to Twitter to drum up support for harsher immigration regulations because of the Boston bombers’ nationality.
“I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.”
Fischer was also met with opposition.
Conservatives who continue to publicly assess that immigration played a defining role in the Boston bombings are oblivious to both the facts about the Tsarnaev brothers and public perception, which renders their argument useless. The Tsarnaev family is heartbroken — their uncle met with reporters and pleaded for Dzhokhar to turn himself in to authorities. Friends of the brothers also came forward in disbelief these young men were capable of such heinous acts. These factors speak to the real, neighborly context of immigration some conservatives refuse to accept: the public sees Dzhokhar and Tamerlan as Americans.
Moreover, this conservative rhetoric cannot be tolerated. The exploitation of irrational fears to shape public policy is reprehensible and cheap. It steers the debate about immigration reform into prejudicial territory — an unfortunate legacy the U.S. should strive to amend. Perhaps the irony of fear mongering is lost on conservatives as well.