"At the time of re-entry there was no derogatory information that suggested this individual posed a national security or public safety threat."
-- Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard explaining to FOX News that Azamat Tazhayakov, accused of aiding the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, was allowed to re-enter the country on Jan. 20 on a student visa, despite having flunked out of school.
A Quinnipiac University poll taken this week said in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings 23 percent of voters changed their opinion on whether to allow a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
And that was before two Kazakh nationals, both in the country illegally, were arrested Wednesday for trying to destroy evidence at the behest of the surviving bombing suspect.
While the poll found a majority still supports the idea of allowing illegal immigrants to stay and eventually become citizens, support dropped to 52 percent, the lowest level recorded so far. The allegation that illegal immigrants were involved in the attack will not help that number.
When Americans think about illegal immigration, they mostly think about émigrés from Latin America, particularly Mexico. President Obama today will visit Mexico City as part of his push to legalize the millions of Hispanic illegal immigrants already in this country, no doubt discussing the strong ties with our North American neighbor and the economic and cultural contributions of Mexican immigrants.
And most Americans will agree. There’s little appetite in either party for mass deportations of long-term Hispanic illegal immigrants. Whatever critics of the immigration plan offer in the Senate have to say, even most of the staunchest opponents have given up on the idea of a coast-to-coast crackdown.
But when the discussion turns to those illegal immigrants who are not part of the Hispanic majority or even the substantial Asian minority, things get more difficult – especially when those illegal immigrants are from Muslim countries, especially those with ties to Islamist militancy.
It pleases the Emma Lazarus within the collective American heart to offer refuge to the “huddled masses yearning to be free,” especially when we think of those desperate to escape from the horrors of places like Somalia, Yemen, Syria and, yes, Chechnya and Kazakhstan.
But when the troubles and terrorism of those countries follow the refugees, many would be happy to see the Statue of Liberty narrow her embrace just a bit.
And that’s when the bargain on offer in the Senate loses some of its appeal.
Whatever specifics are on offer in the 800+ pages of the Senate deal, the bargain at the heart of the proposition is this: In exchange for conservatives agreeing to allow most of the millions here illegally to attain legal status of some kind, liberals are offering to increase protections against new border jumpers and to crack down on those already here who refuse to comply with the requirements for legalization.
The trade of legalization for enforcement looks good for conservatives if one considers what proponent Sen. Marco Rubio calls “de facto amnesty.” If there is no deal, border crossings will persist and there will be no crackdown on those here who do not break other laws. Certainly not under President Obama and almost assuredly under any president. The political clout of Hispanic voters is now so great as to make such things impossible.
Republicans do not like the status quo, neither politically nor practically. Democrats, meanwhile, love the political posture of the debate and can mostly live with a system that achieves most of their aims for permissive immigration by default.
Conservatives like Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Heritage Foundation honcho Jim DeMint are doing their best to sink the legislation, but as long as the discussion remains mostly focused on “undocumented workers” and those “living in the shadows,” their efforts are doomed. Maybe they can scuttle this legislation, but the next bill on offer will certainly be more liberal.
Conservatives stood athwart the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the reasonable grounds that the measure was unconstitutional. But their principled opposition did not stop the law and helped erase a century of standing for Republicans as the party of racial equality.
But when illegal immigrants are accused of helping terrorists and authorities say the system did not even prevent one of the accused bombers from re-entering the country as a student despite flunking out of school, it drives conservatives up a wall. After all, why should security measures that might protect innocent lives be contingent on an immigration bargain? Why should Democrats be able to withhold their support for better security and enforcement?
The answer, of course, is that all that is required of Democrats to win is for them to do nothing. Like the NRA on mass shootings, Democrats need only for nothing to happen in order to get their way. Republicans find the status quo intolerable now, Democrats are willing to wait knowing that the longer they wait, the more advantageous the eventual plan will be to their interests.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“Benghazi happened ‘a long time ago’. That's the definition of chutzpah. This administration has stonewalled every inquiry and delayed its answers and not released names and told all kinds of stories, and they are saying it is an old story.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.