Victor Davis Hanson

What, exactly, justifies deportation of immigrants of any status? Failure to find work and to become self-supporting? Apparently not. The Tsarnaev family reportedly had been on public assistance. This is not an isolated or unusual concern. President Obama's own aunt, Zeituni Onyango, not only broke immigration law by overstaying her tourist visa but also compounded that violation by illegally receiving state assistance as a resident of public housing. Only after Obama was elected president was his aunt finally granted political asylum on the grounds that she would be unsafe in her native Kenya.

Should those residing here illegally at least avoid arrest and follow the rules of their adopted country? Apparently not -- given that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a skilled boxer, was charged in 2009 with domestic violence against his girlfriend. His mother, Zubeidat, also back in Russia now, was reportedly arrested last year on charges of shoplifting some $1,600 in goods from a Boston store.

Again, these are not irrelevant questions. President Obama's own uncle, Onyango Obama, is at present illegally residing in the United States. In 2011, he was cited for drunk driving after nearly slamming into a police car.

Would embracing radical ideological movements that have waged war on the United States be a cause for deportation? Apparently not. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was interviewed by the FBI in 2010, based on information from a foreign intelligence agency that he might pose a threat as a radical Islamist. The FBI knew from Tsarnaev's Web postings about his not-so-private sympathies with radical Islam.

Americans are a generous people who take in more immigrants than any other nation in the world. So the sticking point in the current debate over "immigration reform" is not necessarily the granting of residency per se -- given that most Americans are willing to consider a pathway to citizenship for even those who initially broke immigration law but have since not been arrested, have avoided public assistance, and have tried to learn the language and customs of their newly adopted country.

The problem is what to do with those who have not done all that.

Unless the government can assure the public that it is now enforcing immigration laws already on the books, that foreign nationals must at least avoid arrest and public assistance, and that it is disinclined to grant asylum to "refugees" from war-torn Islamic regions and then allow them periodically to go back and forth from their supposedly hostile homelands, there will be little support for the current immigration bill.

In short, the Tsarnaev brothers have offered us a proverbial teachable moment about what have become near-suicidal immigration policies.


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.


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