EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 28, 2013

Editorial: Marathon bombers bit the hands that fed them

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asserts that Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have a right to privacy that prohibits the release of their welfare records.

It’s good to know where the governor stands. But the public has a compelling interest in learning whether their tax dollars funded the Cambridge brothers’ descent into terrorism.

Police say the Tsarnaev brothers planted two homemade bombs near the finish of the Boston Marathon that killed three people — including an 8-year-old boy — and injured more than 200. After the FBI released their photos, the brothers killed an MIT police officer and led police on a chase into Watertown, tossing more bombs at their pursuers. An early morning gun battle with police resulted in the death of Tamerlan and left Dzhokhar on the run. He was later captured hiding in a boat in a resident’s back yard.

That this rampage may have been financed, at least in part, by public assistance benefits is appalling, as is officials’ refusal to provide the public with any details on the matter.

We know this much: The Boston Herald has reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his wife, Katherine, and their 3-year-old daughter received benefits that ended in 2012 when they no longer met eligibility requirements. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s parents also received state assistance when the brothers were growing up, the newspaper reported.

While the state has declined to provide the public with details of the benefits the Tsarnaevs received, the Boston Globe obtained a copy of a memo from the Department of Transitional Assistance to the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee that says the Tsarnaev parents, Anzor and Zubeidat, received food stamps from October 2002 to November 2004 and again from August 2009 to December 2011.

Anzor also received Aid to Families with Dependent Children funds from January to March 2003 and again from August 2009 to June 2010.

The Globe, citing the memo, reports that Katherine Tsarnaev received welfare and food stamp benefits from September 2011 to November 2012. The memo notes that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar never directly received benefits themselves.

That is a distinction without a difference. The public assistance that Tamerlan’s wife received allowed him to avoid working to support his family and gave him the freedom to pursue his “other interests” — which included constructing bombs from pressure cookers, denouncing local imams and shopkeepers for less than fanatical adherence to Muslim principles and preparing for a six-month trip back to his homeland, where there is speculation he may have been further radicalized and trained in terrorism methods.

Herald columnist Howie Carr, never one to mince words, wants to know if welfare support of the bombers qualifies their acts as “state-sponsored terrorism.”

It’s a valid question, one the citizens of Massachusetts have right to demand answered.

Further, the Tsarnaev family raises valid questions regarding the wisdom of our immigration policies, which are now under review in Congress. Much of that debate centers on the status of illegal immigrants. But the debate should extend beyond that.

The Tsarnaevs were legal immigrants. Yet what benefit accrued to the United States by allowing them to come here? They were apparently unable to support themselves. That, in itself, is no crime. But blowing up productive members of the society that offered them aid and comfort is.

In a more sensible era, America’s immigration policy was designed to maximize the benefit to the nation offered by immigrants. We accepted those whose skills or labor would be a boon to the country.

Why should we now welcome those who, in return for our generosity, would just as soon see us dead?