News Analysis: Where immigration is debated, terrorism should not be

Boston bombings stir up current Senate debates on immigration reform.

The debate over the current state of immigration law in America has plagued legislators and activists for many years. The Immigration and Nationality Act was implemented in 1952 to be a one-stop comprehensive body of laws related to movement across U.S. borders. However, even years later, states have proposed new laws further restricting entry in America.

The question becomes, then, how can fair and effective immigration law be created?

The Boston Marathon massacre last week and the press ripple surrounding it have pointed to how the media and politicians often use terrorist events to justify increasing security at U.S. borders. While both suspects immigrated to America legally, politicians and some media have jumped to the conclusion that the Boston bombings could have been prevented with more immigration restrictions.

This use of terrorist attacks to justify new limitations is apparent in recent debates. The U.S. Senate’s current bipartisan grapple with immigration law has troubled House Republicans Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa), who argue that the bombings are cause for more restriction. Other legislators involved in the immigration law have instead asserted that it is risky to link terrorism to immigration.

However, it is not the first time this has been debated. In 2010, Arizona was successful in pushing forth its notorious SB 1070. The bill controversially allowed police officers to check the immigration status of prisoners, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. This and other cases rose primarily out of a fear for national security post-9/11 and it appears that current Senators may be viewing their reform bill similarly.

The issue here is that legislation has been, and continues to be, based on security breaches virtually unrelated to immigration. As the Senate’s reform bill moves forward, both ends of the political spectrum will need to discuss what is necessary to provide stable border control as well as fairness to foreigners.