Victor Davis Hanson
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Deportation has become a near-taboo word. Yet the recent Boston bombings inevitably rekindle old questions about the way the U.S. admits, or at times deports, foreign nationals.

Despite the Obama administration's politically driven and cyclical claims of deporting either a lot more or a lot fewer non-citizens, no one knows how many are really being sent home -- for a variety of reasons.

There are not any accurate statistics on how many people are living in the United States illegally. And how does one define deportation? If someone from Latin American is detained by authorities an hour after illegally crossing the border, does he count as "apprehended" or "deported"?

"Deportation" is now politically incorrect, sort of like the T-word -- "terrorism" -- that the administration also seeks to avoid. The current government emphasis is on increasing legal immigration and granting amnesties, but by no means is Washington as interested in clarifying deportation.

Why was the Tsarnaev family granted asylum into the United States -- and why were some of them not later deported? Officially, the Tsarnaevs came here as refugees. As ethnic Chechens and former residents of Kyrgyzstan, they sought "asylum" here from anti-Muslim persecution -- given that Russia had waged a brutal war in Chechnya against Islamic militants.

Yes, the environment of Islamic Russia was and can be deadly. But if the Tsarnaevs were supposedly in danger in their native country, why did the father, Anzor, after a few years choose to return to Dagestan, Russia, where he now apparently lives in relative safety? Why did one of the alleged Boston bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, return to his native land for six months last year -- given that escape from such an unsafe place was the very reason that the United States granted his family asylum in the first place?

That is not an irrelevant question. Recently, some supposedly persecuted Somalis were generously granted asylum to immigrate to Minnesota communities, only to later fly back to Somalia to wage jihad. Were they true refugees fleeing persecution against Muslims, or extremists looking for a breather in the United States?

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Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.