Will the Boston bombings — which were allegedly carried out by two brothers of Chechen origin — go any way towards scuttling immigration reform? Some on the right are certainly going to try to use the bombings to slow or kill the reform push. But proponents of reform are now beginning to carefully push back on their argument.
Here is how an aide to a Republican Senator who favors reform puts it to Mike Allen — an argument that’s worth considering, because we’ll surely be hearing more of it in the days ahead:
“The … analysis that the Boston attacks are a setback for immigration reform appears wrongheaded, as we learn more about the story. The fault here wasn’t our immigration system, since the suspects immigrated legally a decade ago as kids and apparently were radicalized here. If anything, the fault lies with our society and domestic intelligence services. Given the facts, the events in Boston seem unlikely to stoke nativist sentiments that may derail immigration reform. To the contrary, to the extent it renews fears of terrorism, it will strengthen the case for reform, since the bipartisan proposal fixes major gaps in our national security posture.”
It does seem unlikely that the Boston bombings will “stoke nativist sentiments,” except perhaps among those whose nativist sentiments are already pretty stoked to begin with. The circumstances of this case seem so unusual — and the motives for the bombings, based on what we know now, seem so tangled — that it’s hard to see ordinary voters relating it to the argument over immigration reform.
The policy argument over immigration right now is over whether — and how — we should provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people who are already here and want to work here and assimilate into American society. Poll after poll shows solid majority support for such a path, particularly when respondents are told that there are conditions attached to it. The simple truth is that there isn’t much nativist sentiment out there — at least in the context of the current debate — except perhaps on the right, where that sentiment already existed to begin with, and is already in the process of being stoked by the reform debate itself.
Indeed, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s application for citizenship was actually placed on hold, at least temporarily, precisely because law enforcement had already picked up on his potentially radical leanings. It was not granted because the Russian government had asked the FBI to take a look at Tamerlan.
If you are going to apply the case of the Tsarnaev brothers to the immigration debate, you’d have to focus on why they were here in the first place. They were granted legal status at a young age, making the significance of their case to the current debate over what to do about those who are here illegally completely meaningless.
If anything, what’s been striking is how few Republican officials of any stature have tried to link the bombings to the immigration debate. To my knowledge, Chuck Grassley is the only major Republican lawmaker who is not a full fledged anti-“amnesty” warrior to draw the connection, and that immediately was rebuked by at least one Republican official.
There are plenty of things that could derail the immigration debate, but it’s hard to see the Boston bombings being the culprit. Yes, they could make it harder to sell the right on reform. But that was always going to be a tough sell to begin with.
* Tsarnaev brothers not licensed to own guns: Reuters reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev didn’t have licenses for the handguns and rifle the brothers used during their rampage last week, as required under Massachusetts law. (Dzhokhar was too young to have a license.) If Tamerlan had a license from elsewhere, he didn’t register it with the Cambridge police, as required.
It’s unclear how — or whether — this will impact the national debate over guns; the question now is where and how they got their guns in the first place.
* The guns carried by the Tsarnaev brothers: Law enforcement officials tell the New York Times that the brothers were planning more attacks beyond just the Boston bombing. And this:
Along with determining that the suspects had made at least five pipe bombs, the authorities recovered four firearms that they believe the suspects used, according to a law enforcement official. The authorities found an M-4 carbine rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — on the boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night…
Authorities are currently working to determine where the guns came from.
* Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s turn towards radical Islam: The Wall Street Journal has a deep dive into the older brother’s radicalization and how it coincided with tensions that divided the Tsarnaev’s family and with Tamerlan’s own growing difficulties in other parts of his life. All the reporting over the weekend and today has still failed to nail down the big unknown: the motive for the bombing.
* What’s next for gun reform advocates? E.J. Dionne urges proponents of fixing our gun laws to keep on organizing and keep on pushing on the issue, noting that even if Toomey-Manchin was defeated, the groundwork for victory later has been laid:
The story of reform in America is that it often takes defeats to inspire a movement to build up the strength required for victory. Which way this story goes is up to us.
I would add that this defeat was only made possible by GOP filibustering that has rendered the Senate undemocratic. Here’s what happened: Gun reform proponents managed to bring about a bipartisan proposal supported by two Senators with A ratings from the NRA, and it got the support of a majority of the Senate.
* Yes, Manchin-Toomey was blocked by GOP filibuster: A lot of folks are arguing that the background check compromise wasn’t actually filibustered, because Harry Reid negotiated a unanimous consent agreement with a 60-vote threshold on amendments, but go read Jonathan Bernstein and Kevin Drum on this topic.
The semantics of what does and doesn’t constitute a filibuster aside, news orgs really should convey to readers with more clarity why we now have a 60-vote Senate, and stop reporting on this as if it’s natural, normal, or inevitable.
* Donors increase pressure on red state Dems over guns: Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley says he will no longer give donations to Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Mark Pryor, or Max Baucus, due to their vote against expanded background checks, and calls on other Dem donors to do the same. Similarly, I reported last month that other donors are planning to refrain from giving to Dems who vote the wrong way on guns.
This reflects a sense that this vote goes beyond the usual positioning red state Dems need to do to survive; the frustration with this vote has boiled over. Indeed, I predict that you’ll be hearing more of this.
* Immigration reform’s tortured path through House: Jonathan Strong has an interesting look at how tensions inside the House GOP caucus are creating two separate paths for immigration reform through the House that are in competition with one another. The secrecy that continues to shroud internal discussions over how to proceed is alone a sign of just how steep a climb getting this through the House will be.
* Ted Cruz, foe of real immigration reform: Politico reports that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are at odds over whether immigration reform should have a path to citizenship, a split that could have major ramifications for the GOP. Cruz:
“I think right now, the single greatest impediment of common-sense immigration reform passing is President Obama, because I think there’s a consequence of insisting on a path to citizenship: It makes it far more likely that immigration reform will be voted down altogether, and that would be a very unfortunate outcome.”
Shorter Ted Cruz: Obama’s insistence on real immigration reform is imperiling the prospects for the fake immigration reform I prefer.
* The unemployment crisis doesn’t have to be happening: Paul Krugman broadens his indictment of the country’s political elites for its wrongheaded embrace of austerity over spending to prime the economy, noting that long term unemployment is actually a humanitarian crisis:
So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans. And let’s be clear: this is a policy decision. The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we’ve been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn’t do — cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy…Our exaggerated fear of debt is, in short, creating a slow-motion catastrophe.