Muslims, Arabs and more recently Chechens aren’t the only ones bearing the brunt of collective blame following the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
Since learning that bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev immigrated to the United States as children, anti-immigrant zealots have capitilized on the moment to argue against immigration reform.
Right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News contributer Laura Ingraham insisted that the US block Muslim immigrants from entering the country, particularly from the ex-Soviet region of the world where the bombing suspects were born.
“I would submit that people shouldn’t be coming here as tourists from Chechnya after 9/11,” Ingraham said. “Dagistan, Checnya, Kergystan, uh-uh. As George Bush would say, ‘None of them stans.’”
You might be thinking: Who cares what Ingraham says? She’s nothing more than an inflammatory radio host with no power over actual public policy. But Ingraham isn’t alone.
For example, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.) has demanded that the US government investigate and deport all Chechen immigrants with violent leanings.
Because the Boston Marathon attack came as the Senate began debating an immigration reform bill, certain politicians wasted no time in using the tragedy to pile on additional fear and hatred of immigrants.
Today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined in the hatefest in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling for the bill to be delayed in light of the Boston bombings.
“Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?”, wrote Paul, who is now apparently an expert on Chechnya and ex-Soviet Muslims.
But the notion that stricter immigration policies could have prevented the Boston bombings is ridiculous given that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaraev were 15 and 8 when they came to this country with their parents as asylum-seekers. As The Atlantic‘s Elseph Reeve explains, “The two individuals were allowed to immigrate because we don’t expect children to become terrorists just because people of their ethnicity live in a violent place.”
Nevertheless, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) used the bombings to denounce the immigration bill as well, expressing disgust to MSNBC host Martin Bashir that the bill bans law enforcement from racial profiling. In a creative mix of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Walsh said the following:
“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young muslim men,”
“The fact is, Martin, neither you or I or Jonathan knows of the 11 million, and it’s more than 11 million, how many are bad characters,” Walsh continued, addressing Bashir and fellow guest, columnist Jonathan Alter. “And what we’re going to do is replicate what we did in ’86, provide amnesty to all of them, which in essence is providing legal status to a lot of bad characters. You know, Martin, there’s also a piece of this legislation that bans our law enforcement officials of profiling. We need to profile even when it comes to our immigration policy.”
I wonder if these hate-mongerers know that Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat being hailed as a hero for providing life-saving services immediately after the Boston bombings, was once an undocumented immigrant. Probably not. Facts don’t seem to be their forte.