By ANDREW ROSENTHAL
In the days since the Boston marathon attack, a number of Republican lawmakers have demanded a delay in immigration reform because the two bombers were fairly recent immigrants.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid on April 22 to say:
“We should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration 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? Were there any safeguards? Could this have been prevented? Does the immigration reform before us address this?”
Actually, neither brother immigrated from Chechnya. The ethnically Chechen Tsarnaevs came here from neighboring Dagestan. And when did the United States start excluding immigrants from dangerous places? Seems to me that they fall into the categories of “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” not to mention “wretched refuse” of teeming shores and the “homeless, tempest-tossed.”
I wasn't actually aware that Emma Lazarus's 1883 poem legally dictates 21st Century immigration policy.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
And I'm having a hard time figuring out how the Tsarnaevs promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Furthermore, in answer to Rosenthal's question, "And when did the United States start excluding immigrants from dangerous places?"
One answer appears to be that the Obama Administration has a fairly general policy of excluding males from Chechnya. (The Tsarnaevs got in under Bush.) From USA Today on April 19, 2013:
There are probably fewer than about 200 Chechen immigrants in the United States, and most of them are settled in the Boston area, as many U.S. cities have refused to accept asylum applicants from the war-torn area of southern Russia, says Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown Foundation.
About 70% of the Chechen immigrants are women, Howard says. Very few men are granted asylum because of U.S. anti-terrorism policies and because Russia often protests when ethnic Chechens try to settle in the U.S., he said. The U.S. admitted only 197 refugees from all of Russia in 2012.
That contrasts with many European countries, especially Austria, where many Chechens who want to leave difficult conditions at home settle. Austria has about 30,000 Chechen immigrants, Howard said.
"This family is a very rare episode. Very few make it here, even fewer get green cards," Howard said. The Jamestown Foundation has testified on behalf of several ethnic Chechens who have applied for asylum in the United States, which is typically a three- to five-year process. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the remaining suspect in the Boston marathon bombing, is a naturalized U.S. citizens.
President Obama has tried to "restart" U.S. relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has maintained a tough policy on Chechen insurgents. The U.S. also wants to maintain a key military supply line to Afghanistan known as the "northern route," which runs across Central Asia and southern Russia.
Immigrating from Chechnya is particularly difficult because there are several groups on the U.S. Department of Treasury terrorism list, such as Islamic International Brigade, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion, which were implicated in the Moscow theater hostage bombing of 202 that killed 129, including an American.
So, congratulations to the Obama Administration for having a fairly sensible policy of largely discriminating against Chechens trying to get in to our country.