Politics

U.S. Refugee Chief Didn’t Know Boston Bombers Were Refugees

At a Thursday Congressional hearing regarding the Obama administration’s plan to welcome tens of thousands of additional refugees into the United States, the administration’s top refugees official revealed that she had no idea whether the Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the Boston bombing arrived in the U.S. as refugees.

Barbara Strack, who serves as the chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security, was grilled by the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Sessions asked Strack whether it was accurate that the two Boston bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerian Tsarnaev, had entered the U.S. as refugees from Chechnya.

“I would need to check with my colleagues, sir,” Strack replied.

The exchange can be seen at about 1:48:42 in C-SPAN’s recording of the hearing.

Needless to say, the Boston bombers actually were refugees, with their parents arriving in the U.S. on tourist visas in 2002 and then claiming asylum on the basis that their ties to Chechnya could expose them to persecution back in Russia. Once their parents were given asylum, the two boys and their sisters were able to also receive asylum by extension.

That asylum was upgraded to legal permanent residency in 2007. In 2013, the brothers bombed the Boston Marathon, throwing the city into panic and ultimately killing five people. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by police during the chase to apprehend the brothers, while Dzhokhar was arrested and recently sentenced to death for his role in the attack.

The Obama administration recently announced plans to settle about 200,000 refugees in the U.S. over the next two years, including about 10,000 from Syria. On Thursday, the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest called a hearing to discuss the plan and whether it exposed the U.S. to unnecessary risks.

The experience of the Tsarnaevs is relevant, as critics of Obama’s refugee plan argue that importing thousands of Syrian refugees could essentially import Syria’s problems into the United States, exposing the country to more terrorist attacks motivated by radical Islam.

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