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The D-word

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

Deportation has become a near-taboo word. Yet the recent Boston bombings inevitably rekindle old questions about the way the US 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?

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.

©2013 Tribune Media Services

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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