by Robert B. Reich
The Boston Marathon bombing has brought out the xenophobes.
Often when America suffers some large, inexplicable tragedy, we want to blame "foreigners" and look for ways to fortify ourselves against them. It's more reassuring to believe that an evil lies outside our borders -- in "them" -- than to face the possibility that it's randomly among us.
And like the communist scare before it, the so-called "war on terror" -- a war without end -- offers a convenient means of targeting the source as a foreign menace bent on destroying us.
Let's blame immigrants, say the xenophobes. Sen.
Whatever "weaknesses" exist in our immigration system don't explain why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did what he is alleged to have done. He came to
Immigration reform shouldn't be confused with national security in any event. The main purpose of reforming our outmoded immigration laws is to do what's right and give the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America -- many of them here for years, working at jobs and paying withholding taxes, and many of them children -- a path to citizenship.
We need to make sure they aren't exploited by employers and others who know they won't complain to authorities. And we should give their families the possibility of living here peacefully and securely without fearing deportation.
That path shouldn't be so easy as to invite others from abroad to abuse the system. America has every right to demand that undocumented immigrants pay a penalty and move to the back of the queue when it comes to attaining citizenship.
But the path should be reasonable, straightforward and fair.
The new xenophobia doesn't end there. Other politicians want to declare the surviving
Wait a moment. Tsarnaev was arrested on American soil for acts occurring in
It's true that during the Bush administration the
The so-called "war on terror" is analogous to the Cold War, which lasted almost 45 years. During its height we came perilously close to abrogating the rights of American citizens on suspicions they had ties to communists.
If American citizens can be arrested and held indefinitely without a lawyer or proper trial, and without the full protection of our system of justice, because we suspect they have ties to terrorists, where will that end?
Our civil rights and liberties lie at the core of what it means to be an American. We have fought for over two centuries to protect and defend them.
The horror of the Boston Marathon bombing is real. But the xenophobic fears it has aroused are not.
We need immigration reform. We must protect our civil liberties. These goals are not incompatible with protecting America. They are essential to it.