Immigration Reform 2013: Rand Paul Brings Boston Into Debate

A week of terror began at 2:59 p.m. last Monday afternoon at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street. It ended at 7:58 p.m. on Friday night as Bostonians, trapped all day in their homes, poured into the streets and Americans everywhere breathed sighs of relief. We got him.

As the legal proceedings move forward in the case of the two suspects in the Boston bombings, the realities of the situation that gripped the nation last week have begun to set in. One brother was dead while his younger brother lay in a hospital bed in Boston, unable to speak. One was a former boxer and the other a former wrestler. One briefly caught the eye of the FBI, after an alert from Russian authorities, while the other moved under the radar as an ordinary immigrant teenager in the United States. One was here legally on a visa while the other received naturalized citizen status.

Monday, in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul urged a halt in the current immigration debate, spearheaded by the bipartisan “Gang of 8,” in order to scrutinize and locate the cracks in the system that the Tsarnaev brothers appeared to slip through.

In the letter, the Kentucky Senator made a resounding call for an inspection of the system to ensure that what happened last Monday does not continue to happen. Two of Senator Paul’s points of concern are America’s welcoming of refugees and a necessity for greater scrutiny of student visas.

The question as to how these brothers carried out these heinous acts still remains. However, the immigration system is not what failed all of the victims of the vicious attack. Both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived in the U.S. as minors legally in 2002 under an asylum petition that their father filed in order to escape a homeland in turmoil. They are technically ethnic Chechens, but the family did not emigrate from Chechnya.  

At the heart of their immigration story lies Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s 2011 application for citizenship that was still pending at the time of the attack. Officials had flagged the application because of the previous FBI investigation and accusations of domestic abuse, but they had not settled the issue when the bombs went off at the finish line.

If America abandons its role as a safe haven for those in flight from disaster and imminent death in the face of an isolated, homegrown terrorist attack, then we risk compromising our position as the defender of human rights around the world. If we crack down on the educational thirst of foreign students, students such as Lu Lingzi, who view the United States as a stepping stone of their future then we diminish our role as a world leader. In times of crisis and tragedy, America should not shrink back but keep on running.