As tempting as it might be for anyone in Washington to find some way to spin the tragic events of the Boston bombings to advance their legislative agenda on Capitol Hill—they ought to think twice. That particularly goes for all sides in the immigration debate.
We’re chagrined, therefore, that some of the bill’s supporters are making the case that the bombings in Boston demonstrate that we need the bill so “we can know who’s here.”
Washington should not get ahead of the facts, and it will take some time before we understand all sides to the events in Boston. From what we know so far, it appears law enforcement has conducted a textbook investigation into the bombing at the Boston Marathon. They gave us the factual information they had, when they had it, and when they could share it. When it comes to tweaking the measures we use to prevent terrorist travel and foil plots, it is far too premature based on what they have told us to draw any conclusions on how to be more efficient at fighting terrorism.
America has had over a decade of experience in battling both transnational and “home-grown” terrorism. There is already plenty of experience to draw conclusions on how to keep this nation safe, free and prosperous. When it comes to counterterrorism, the single most effective tool is finding the terrorists and stopping them before they kill. That has been the key to success to foiling most of the 54 frustrated plots by Islamist terrorists against America.
Good immigration and border security policies play an important, but supporting role. Generally, the rule is if you have good policies that facilitate legal immigration and travel while providing for public safety and security — they will serve well to help thwart terrorist travel.
The comprehensive immigration bill proposed by the Gang of Eight should be able to stand on its own merits. And there is plenty in the bill to suggest that it cannot.
In fact, the bill promises “new security” by demanding the government have an electronic system to ensure that we can check out every foreign visitor leaving the country. The problem is the federal requirement to do that is not new—it has been on the books at least 17 years and ignored by three different Administrations. It is still not in place. There is a vigorous debate over if “building this system is worth the security or immigration enforcement benefits it may provide.”
There are national security problems with the bill that we hope to be able to debate at length.
The Boston bombings were a stark reminder that terrorism is still a real security threat. The seriousness of that threat requires we react carefully and thoughtfully in debating key issues to ensure we do what’s right to solve immigration reform and border security.