Perverse Policy

By John Wahala on February 27, 2009

Lamenting the choice of Somali Americans to become suicide bombers back home, FBI Director Robert Mueller explained, “The prospect of young men, indoctrinated and radicalized within their own communities, and induced to travel to such countries to take up arms—and to kill themselves and perhaps many others—is a perversion of the immigrant story.”

Mr. Mueller’s somber reflection was part of his recent remarks on fighting terrorism, in which he stressed building trust in insular immigrant communities susceptible to radicalism. With these efforts, the FBI and other state agencies underscore the realities of our generous immigration policies. Ironically, those tasked with the basic responsibility of preserving order have little or no purview over our first line of defense—whom and how many we allow to enter.

In these matters, it seems constantly necessary to emphasize the obvious: the vast majority of immigrants are not terrorists. But this lone observation is not sufficient grounds for policy. As Mr. Mueller will attest, large enclaves foster alienation. For a young Somali man this alienation may engender sympathy for radical Islam. For others it may encourage ethnic balkanization or a general hostility toward civil society, as we have seen with identity movements or the proliferation of immigrant gangs.

As Mark Krikorian has explained, these realities are not a condemnation of the immigrant but of our immigration policy. In other words, many of these pathologies could be avoided if a moderate, historical level of immigration was adopted. The role the long period of restriction played in the integration and success of last century’s immigrants has been forgotten. Similarly, there is little recognition that successive waves of contemporary immigration slow the success of newcomers, whose progress has decreased over time. And this adversely affects the progress of their children, who may not feel like fully-vested Americans despite their birthright citizenship.

While the grim story of the Somali suicide bomber is but an anecdote, its context reveals a troubling and neglected aspect of mass immigration.