The Butterfly Effect of Boston Bombings on Labor Law

by Allison Pearson

The April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon and subsequent manhunt for its perpetrators were national tragedies which left four dead and hundreds injured.  While the unfortunate series of events may seem quite removed from labor law, the bomber’s status as immigrants may have a larger impact than expected in the already turbulent environment surrounding immigration policy.

The butterfly effect describes the idea that small forces may result in a cumulatively large effect over time.  Throughout the month of April, labor unions and activists have been amongst the crowds gathering for rallies and protests calling for immigration reform.  The link between immigration policy and the labor force is inextricable.  The Department of Homeland Security estimates that in 2012, 1,031,631 persons became legal permanent residents of the United States, while another 757,434 persons became naturalized citizens.  This, of course, says nothing of the estimated 11.9 million immigrants without legal status.  Just as immigration reform has become a priority in Congress, the Boston bombings may succeed in shifting congressional focus from the benefits of incorporating millions of immigrants in the labor market in a more meaningful way, to the potential national security threat that immigrants pose.

As soon as Friday, April 19, members of the Senate were already linking the events in Boston to weaknesses in the nation’s immigration policies.  Though the tragedies in Boston seem worlds removed from discussions of labor law, the deadly explosions may have very well shifted the nation’s attitudes on immigration just as cries for reform were gaining momentum.