The aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings has revealed a rift in the Republican Party. Not for the first time, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham are on opposite sides.
Confusion about his drone stance aside, Paul has opposed designating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev an enemy combatant or militarizing law enforcement in response to the Boston attacks. But he has advised the Senate to slow down on the immigration bill in the wake of what happened in Massachusetts.
“I believe that any real comprehensive immigration reform must implement strong national security protections,” Paul wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system.”
“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?” Paul asked. “Were there any safeguards? Could this have been prevented? Does the immigration reform before us address this?”
Good questions all, but Graham has a somewhat different perspective. “Here’s what we’re suggesting, that the surviving suspect—due to the ties that these two have to radical Islamic thought and the ties to Chechnya, one of most radical countries in the world—that the president declare preliminarily that the evidence suggests that this man should be treated as an enemy combatant,” the South Carolina Republican said from the Senate floor.
“We could hold him for a period of time, we could question him without a lawyer, and none of the evidence could be used against him in the criminal proceeding,” Graham continued. “But that’s the best way to gather intelligence.”
But on the Senate immigration bill, full speed ahead. America may be a battlefield, but the world is its oyster.
It is an odd conceit of “comprehensive immigration reform” that there is a legislative solution that will allow the United States to import large numbers of Chechens—to cite just one example—without importing the area’s political instability.
Two teenagers can pose a big enough national security threat to bring martial law to one of the country’s greatest cities. But reformers say millions of immigrants pose no national security threat at all.
The Gang of Eight claims they can design an immigration bureaucracy that will weed out potential problems from millions of new arrivals, even though the existing bureaucracy can’t keep track of naturalized citizens and legal residents.
Comprehensive immigration reform promises that there is some combination of policies that can be adopted that will deliver all the benefits of mass immigration while minimizing—even negating—its costs.
According to the confident assurances of press flacks regularly appearing in my inbox, there is no downside for low-skilled American workers. They too will benefit from the arrival of vast numbers of low-skilled foreign workers. There is no fiscal cost. And there are certainly no homeland security risks.
Even though we are increasingly becoming a society where upward mobility is difficult to achieve for people who lack a college education, such upward mobility will be readily available to newly arrived immigrants without college diplomas.
There is a series of border-security checklists, enforcement triggers, and commissions that can satisfy every possible objection to the legislation. There are lines, fines, and waiting periods that will make any legalization of illegal immigrants already here very different from the 1986 amnesty.
Yet this conceit is precisely what has defeated comprehensive immigration reform in the past. The American people like what politicians promise it will do, but will the reform actually deliver?
Comprehensive immigration reformers hope this time will be different. Perhaps it will be. Even if the American people start to turn against the Senate group’s handiwork after Boston, the number of Republicans who view passing something as being in their political interest has risen sharply since the last election.
But there is something odd about the argument that the Bill of Rights is negotiable while a comprehensive immigration bill isn’t. Especially when that argument comes from a self-styled conservative Republican.
W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the newly released Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?