A handful of congressional Republicans believe that the Boston Marathon bombing exposed potentially lethal gaps in America’s border security.
“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?” asked Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in a Monday letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The fact that suspected bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were able to come from Chechnya to America unhindered, he argued, “exposed a weakness in our current system.”
A more important question might be which of Sen. Paul’s staffers told him that the Tsarnaev brothers had emigrated from Chechnya. In fact, though ethnically Chechen, they were born in Kyrgyzstan and came to the United States as children.
Though Paul’s letter was specifically about the implications of the Boston terror attack, some of his questions and concerns evidently had nothing at all to do with that incident. For instance, he wondered whether the government should “suspend student visas, or at least those from high-risk areas,” while curiously omitting whatever new evidence made him suspect that current student visa policy might be a threat.
Neither of the Boston bombing suspects were in the country on student visas.
But Sen. Paul’s “important national security questions” are less baffling than the questions being asked by ranking Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee. GOP committee members sent a letter requesting “a classified briefing … related to the case of the original person of interest” in the Boston attack to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
PERSON OF INTEREST?
That “person of interest” was a 22-year-old Saudi national who was injured by the attack, briefly questioned by investigators, and soon cleared of any wrongdoing. Could this be the reason for Paul’s stated student visa concern as well?
However, Glenn Beck’s news website TheBlaze has nonetheless pursued what it claims are anonymous reports that the person of interest was slated to be deported for mysterious reasons. Anonymous immigration officials allegedly then informed writers for TheBlaze that the original person of interest would not be deported, but “that the department does have a different Saudi national in custody being held on grounds unrelated to the Boston bombings.”
The story might have ended there had the four GOP committee members–chair Michael McCaul of Texas, Peter King of New York, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, and Candice Miller of Michigan–not still “wanted answers,” in the words of TheBlaze’s report on their letter to Napolitano.
Regarding the original person of interest, “media reports have continued to raise concerns about this individual and adjustments that may have been made to his immigration status,” according to the letter. It is unclear whether these media reports have come from any outlet other than TheBlaze.
Over the past few days, various other Republican lawmakers, notably Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have attempted to slow down comprehensive immigration reform, ostensibly over concerns that the presence of the Tsarnaev brothers in the United States has exposed “gaps and loopholes in our immigration system.” Rep. King and others also strenuously advocated for the Tsarnaev brother to be tried as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal, as opposed to in a civilian court. Federal authorities disregarded this request.
On Monday, House Republican leaders John Boehner, R-Ohio and Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appeared to suggest cooler heads should prevail, saying the Boston attack should not hinder attempts to pass immigration reform.