OPINION

Geraldo Rivera: Did Boston Bombing Injure Immigration Reform?

DENVER, CO - JULY 13:  Undocumented Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra (L), her husband Salvador and their children Luna, 7, and Roberto, 5, walk to her immigration hearing in federal court on July 13, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. At the hearing, the court said it would not release it's verdict on her possible deportation until October, leaving her and her family in continued uncertainty. Vizguerra is a mother of four children, three of whom were born in the U.S. as American citizens. If Vizguerra is deported back to Mexico, she says her husband and children will stay on in the United States. Just one of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Vizguerra first came to Colorado from Mexico City with her husband and first child 14 years before. Now an activist for the immigration advocate group Rights For All People, she also owns a janitorial service and says she has always paid state and federal taxes on her income. Some two years ago she was stopped by a traffic policemen for driving with expired tags and taken to jail when she could not prove her legal immigration status. Out on bail during court proceedings, she now faces the real possibility that she will be deported to Mexico and separated from her family in the United States.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

DENVER, CO - JULY 13: Undocumented Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra (L), her husband Salvador and their children Luna, 7, and Roberto, 5, walk to her immigration hearing in federal court on July 13, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. At the hearing, the court said it would not release it's verdict on her possible deportation until October, leaving her and her family in continued uncertainty. Vizguerra is a mother of four children, three of whom were born in the U.S. as American citizens. If Vizguerra is deported back to Mexico, she says her husband and children will stay on in the United States. Just one of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Vizguerra first came to Colorado from Mexico City with her husband and first child 14 years before. Now an activist for the immigration advocate group Rights For All People, she also owns a janitorial service and says she has always paid state and federal taxes on her income. Some two years ago she was stopped by a traffic policemen for driving with expired tags and taken to jail when she could not prove her legal immigration status. Out on bail during court proceedings, she now faces the real possibility that she will be deported to Mexico and separated from her family in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2011 Getty Images)

The 11 million undocumented living among us cannot get a break. Two weeks ago, they were bursting with optimism, freedom beckoned, liberation from their tense, sometimes terrifying existence hiding in shadows dodging immigration authorities. Then, almost before the ink was dry on the press release announcing the “Gang of Eight’s” long-awaited compromise to legalize their status and let the sunshine in, the Boston bombings changed the conversation.

Is Senator Paul suggesting we should stop allowing political refugees into the country because we can’t predict how their kids will turn out?

- Geraldo Rivera

"Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing. ... I urge restraint in that regard," the liberal lion Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said during the opening hearing. "Refugees and asylum-seekers have enriched the fabric of this country from our founding."

When the savage explosions shattered lives in Boston, proponents of immigration reform like Senator Leahy were suddenly on the defensive, even as opponents were emboldened.

"I believe that any real comprehensive immigration reform must implement strong national security protections," Senator Rand Paul, a key opponent wrote Senate leadership. "The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs."

To what flaws does the senator refer? The mere fact the Boston bombers were immigrants who grew up to become terrorists does not mean the system that allowed them to emigrate here as children is flawed. For all their wacky conspiracy theories following the atrocity in Boston, in 2002 the parents of the bombers were typical of thousands of ethnic Chechens fleeing the bitter and brutal Russian suppression.  

Of their children, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older perpetrator was just 14 years old when his parents sought and obtained refugee status. The kid brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was eight when he came to America. Is Senator Paul suggesting we should stop allowing political refugees into the country because we can’t predict how their kids will turn out after they’re exposed to a decade or more of American pop culture, scholarships, welfare and free Internet?

That is not a flaw, that is a reactionary policy. Still, the key Republican sponsor of the bill, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, took the bait, promising to close any Boston bomber-related loophole. “If Boston exposes flaws in our system, immigration or otherwise, we should address that and we should address that in this bill ... And if there’s something that went wrong in that process — in the [political]-asylum process, the refugee process — let’s fix it. We’re always in the process of learning and applying lessons here.”

The rub is obvious. There is no fix, no legislative language that can winnow political refugees when the danger you’re seeking to avoid has not even grown up yet. Maybe we could call it the Manchurian Candidate exclusion: “Anyone whose children have been pre-programmed to grow up to become terrorists is hereby excluded from being granted political refugee status.”

The debate over this faux Boston immigration issue will be open-ended. Without exaggeration, alone it is potent enough to eat weeks of precious legislative time and energy, enough I fear to destroy progress on the bill. “We are learning about homegrown elements, people who have been raised here, people who have been radicalized here,” added Senator Rubio during one of his many interviews.

Fine, but what does the homegrown radicalization of terrorists have to do with immigration? And why, specifically, must those crafting the long-awaited reform bill feel the responsibility to deal with something that by definition is “homegrown” rather than imported?

Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.

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