Editorial: Speculation can help no one


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Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa’s 4th District, told the National Review Online — a conservative publication — Tuesday that he believes progress on immigration-reform legislation should be slowed based on “speculation” that Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon may have been the work of a “foreign national.”

“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” King told the National Review Online’s Robert Costa. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture.”

“We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing,” King said. “If we can’t background-check people who are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background-check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?”

King, whose anti-immigration reputation precedes him, apparently has no qualms about exploiting a national tragedy to advance the same anti-immigrant message he’s been peddling in the House for years.

The “speculation” King cited stemmed from reports circulated Monday that a Saudi Arabian national in the United States on a student visa was being questioned by law enforcement about his involvement in the bombing, which killed at least three and injured at least 176 more.

Indeed, authorities searched the student’s apartment on Monday night, but according to a Reuters report, law-enforcement officials said Tuesday that he had been cleared of suspicion.   

Such speculation and misinformation have been rampant since the bombing; it was reported on Monday that as many as seven explosive devices may have been discovered in Boston. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said police had found two bombs — those that were detonated near the marathon’s finish line.

At this point, the facts are still very much in flux.

But the facts are of little importance to King, who waited fewer than 24 hours to draw on this early speculation to politicize the Boston bombing through blatant fear mongering intended to besmirch the reputation of the United States’ immigrant population.

King’s xenophobic comments were intended to call into question the national-security implications of the bipartisan immigration-reform bill that emerged from the Senate Tuesday afternoon.

This bill includes provisions to tighten security along the U.S.- Mexico border, expand visa programs for high- and low-skilled foreign workers, and establish a 13-year path to citizenship for America’s immigrant population.

The Editorial Board has endorsed an expanded worker-visa program and a path to citizenship on this page recently, and we reaffirm these endorsements in light of King’s statements. There is simply no evidence to suggest that such policies would in any way compromise the safety of the United States, as King suggests.

More than anything, King’s abhorrent comments Tuesday should serve as a reminder of the ugliness that comes from politicizing a tragedy.

The Boston Marathon bombing was an atrocity, and the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators is unknown and may stay that way for quite a while. To speculate about the identity, ideology, or intent of the attacker for political gain is to disrespect the memory of those who were killed or injured and to undermine the remarkable spirit of unity and resilience that has emerged among the people of Boston and the country as a whole since Monday afternoon.

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