Why did Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad get a student visa and U.S. citizenship?  Marty Peretz argued yesterday that he shouldn’t have because he was mediocre.  But I don’t think that Peretz’ reasoning is much better than mediocre itself.

The evidence of Shahzad’s mediocrity begins with a Spring 1998 transcript which, quoting the New York Times, “showed that he earned D’s in English composition and microeconomics, B’s in Introduction to Accounting and Introduction to Humanities, and a C in statistics.”  Peretz comments:

Let us give Shahzad the benefit of the doubt: He was a certified mediocrity. Nothing better. Why does America desire such certified mediocrities? … what conceivable national interest was served in giving such a dross of a young man a student visa?

I’m not sure what Peretz is suggesting; perhaps a GPA requirement for nationalization?  Not exactly — such an implied requirement would only apply to immigrants of certain races.

We do have anself-interested [sic] obligation to deal with Latin American would-be immigrants and sojourners, if for no other reason than that they are our neighbors, very close neighbors; and the prosperity of Mexico, the islands, and below Mexico to Central and South America is therefore our concern.

There are also countries (of which, by the way, Pakistan is one, like India and South Korea and others) from which talented men and women want to come to live and work in the United States. The emphasis should always be on talent, rigorously measured.

This pretty clearly, if accidentally, suggests that talented immigrants don’t come from Latin America.  So (a) all the talented people in Latin America want to stay put or (b) there are none to begin with.  Either way, Peretz creates a strange double standard: It’s okay for Mexican immigrants to be construction workers, but Indian immigrants better be doctors.  I don’t think that the proximity argument suffices because air travel makes even Pakistan only a day away.

Peretz finishes:

Frankly, we have enough of our own mediocrities not to go out of our way to welcome others. And we should especially scrutinize those from countries in which terror is now part of the national culture.

I don’t see how this is a useful prescription; should we scrutinize a Pakistani accountants with a couple of C’s more closely than a Pakistani engineer with straight A’s? Isn’t the latter more dangerous?

Underlying Peretz’ post are racism and intellectual snobbery rather than constructive ideas on the relation between immigration policy and terrorism.

Photo Credit: Flickr (pjern)

blog comments powered by Disqus