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Common Sense on Syria

In these times one is not a right-wing fanatic to be concerned about security, nor a left wing radical to be concerned about refugees. It is time for applying common sense. Congress cannot “guarantee” that a terrorist will not get by a refugee screening process that can take up to two years, no more than it can guarantee that a terrorist will not illegally cross one of our borders tomorrow. That does not mean we should not improve our refugee process and border security in every reasonable way. It is not a case of not being able to do both. Of course we can. And we must defeat ISIS as well as respecting and supporting good-hearted Muslims everywhere.

The long-run solution will involve reversing the “ghettoization” of immigrants in Europe while continuing that reversal with the poor in this country. There is very encouraging research on how much better poor children do when housing programs disperse those families into middle-class neighborhoods where the values of education and hard work are appreciated. The children do better in every measure, from greater future income and educational achievement to less crime and delinquency. To study and play sports becomes “cool” rather than starting to deal drugs and gang bang. This country’s policy makers were acting with the best of intentions when they clustered public housing, often in high rises. Little did they know that they were creating vertical ghettos that ultimately spawned failure and dysfunction.

Similarly, European policymakers were acting with the same good intentions when they housed immigrants the same way. Most of the current rash of terror incidents were carried out by home-grown terrorists. Sadly, the inadvertent “ghettoization” process in Europe has had similar results as the misguided concentrations of the U.S. public housing experience. Both are going to take time to remedy, but fix them we will.

In the meantime, we need to be realistic about protecting ourselves by vigorous law enforcement and security measures as well as to reach out to integrate immigrants into Western culture and economic participation.

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