The Enemy Within

America needs to find a way to grapple with the tensions of immigration reform and its desire to remain an open and welcoming society or risk becoming a society that eliminates all its freedoms in the name of protecting against terror.

Since the Boston Marathon tragedy the American people have learned once again that its greatest strength is also likely to be its greatest weakness.

Four people were killed and almost two-hundred injured and some maimed for life in Boston last week.

All this horror as a result the acts of two young men who were given refuge and greeted with open arms by Lady Liberty.

Like generations before them these immigrants and their family fled the strife of their former homeland, Chechnya for what they hoped was a chance to pursue a better life and fulfill their dreams.

Although the streets are not 'paved with gold' many have taken this journey before, worked hard and enjoyed the success of their labors.

America is clearly a better place for their efforts.

What is not clear is what went wrong here?

How did the generosity of the American spirit shown to them engender such contempt instead of gratitude from these two young men?

Ironically if they were not originally from foreign land, we would simply attribute this horrific act to the work of two mentally ill and deranged individuals - just look at Timothy Mc Veigh of Oklahoma City; Jared Loughner of Tucson; James Holmes of Aurora; and Adam Lanza of


All home grown 'All American Boys' and all equally capable of spreading their own form of terror.

Because Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev were born in Russia and came to America as refugees, some in the US Congress have already seized on this case as yet another reason to deny citizenship for many other grateful and hard working individuals who have come to the US


Perhaps Tamerlan and Dzhokar were simply too assimilated and had become like other disillusioned young men in America - disconnected from society and reality - having nothing to do with their so-called Chechnyan political heritage.

It is simply too soon to know.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves just what is the force that pushes our youth to become so disconnected from society, responsibility and our social norms making them targets for radicalization and terror.

This unforgivable act has begun to take its toll on the already strained political discourse here in Washington and across the country.

After a resounding defeat in the last presidential election some brave Republicans - risking the ire of their base - have stepped forward to join fellow Democrats in proposing the first real immigration reform bill since the 1980s.

America needs to find a way to grapple with the tensions of immigration reform and its desire to remain an open and welcoming society or risk becoming a society that eliminates all its freedoms in the name of protecting against terror.

This is a discussion the US began with the passage of The Patriot Act immediately after 9/11 and one that needs to continue until a proper balance is struck.

We've learned that the Russian government alerted the Obama Administration to the activities of Tamleran Tsarnaev. The FBI was reportedly even dispatched to question him. Apparently at that time he did not appear to be a threat.

Is it realistic to expect government authorities in our open societies to continually monitor every so-called suspicious individual forever?

Perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that the US and other open societies will never be

100 % safe.

The plain hard fact is that governments simply will not be able to thwart every terrorist plot whether foreign or home grown. Our shores no longer protect us from these acts either within or afar.

Comprehensive Immigration reform needs to address enhanced border protections as well as the negative economic affects of cheap illegal labor.

As we move beyond the Boston tragedy and learn from the experience, America may also need to examine its well meaning lofty immigration ideals.

America has always been willing give asylum to people who claimed they would be persecuted if they were denied entry or returned to their homeland.

However, we have been notoriously naive about the nature of international events, never fully appreciating the complicated nuisances of these situations in these troubled regions.

Generally, the US is fortunate. Most of our illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens, if you will, come from poor countries in South and Central America. These immigrants are hard working and generally share our values. They have been drawn to the US for a chance to find meaningful work and a better future for their families.

The problem is that our immigration system has been used to satisfy so many different agendas over time.

One of these goals was to serve as a political propaganda mechanism, providing a safe haven from persecution and at the same time thumbing our noses at our cold war antagonists.

In this case perhaps it was a political goal to grant certain Chechnyans political asylum, sending the former Soviet Union a message.

This use of our system may need to be revisited.

However, this should have no bearing on finding a comprehensive solution to our illegal immigration problem for the vast number of immigrants who do value and treasure our system of government and pose no threat.

Some in Congress have already begun using this tragedy as a political football in the warm up to the 2014 midterm elections.

The real challenge here is to create an immigration system that works for all in a balanced way, while weeding out those dangerous individuals who threaten our nation and our way of life.

Jon-Christopher Bua's blogposts for Sky appear here.


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