Someone tried to commit mass murder in the United States again on Monday. The last couple times this happened, the perpetrator was a white, native-born American with a gun. And so right-thinking Republicans knew that it was morally wrong to “politicize” the event by bringing up divisive policy debates in its immediate aftermath.
This time, however, the would-be perpetrator was a Muslim immigrant with a suicide vest. And so President Trump — and all god-fearing conservatives — recognized that it is never too soon to push for policies that enhance the security of the American people.
Specifically, the White House argued that Akayed Ullah, the 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who allegedly tried to blow himself up in a New York City subway station Monday morning, would never have been allowed in the United States under Trump’s proposed immigration system.
“America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” the president said in a written statement. “Congress must end chain migration.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rendered the president’s argument in greater detail.
The administration’s central claim — that changes to immigration policy endorsed by the president would have kept Ullah off our shores — appears plausible. The president has endorsed the RAISE Act, which would transition the United States to a “merit-based” immigration system — i.e., one in which a prospective immigrant’s personal skills would count for much more than his or her familial ties to current U.S. residents. It’s reasonable to think that Ullah’s chances of being accepted into the United States would have been lower under such a system — especially since the RAISE Act also slashes all legal immigration in half.
Nonetheless, there is no coherent argument for why restricting immigration should be a bigger priority than gun control for people who wish to prevent acts of mass murder on U.S. soil. In the aggregate, immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than American-born citizens. There have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. Two months ago, Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded 515 in Las Vegas; weeks later, Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 and injured 20 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The Trump administration’s position is that acts of mass violence against U.S. citizens are:
1) So intolerable, we must revolutionize our immigration system in a manner that would (ostensibly) prevent a small fraction of such events.
2) Such an inevitable fact of life, we must not significantly increase regulation of the firearms market in ways that would (ostensibly) prevent a large fraction of such events.
This illogic suggests that the administration is less concerned about preventing tragedies like the one that almost occurred in New York on Monday than they are in leveraging such events to advance an immigration agenda that they support for other reasons.