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Banning Manchurian Candidates

by Geraldo Rivera | Apr 26, 2013

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.
 
"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, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida 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?

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