While it does not fall within the realm of my responsibilities to deal with refugees from the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, it is a matter of great concern to the people in the Virginia’s 37th Senate District.
There has been a great amount of thoughtful concern as well as unwarranted hysteria created around the 10,000 refugees that the United States is proposing to accept from Syria. Clearly the needs of our fellow man must be addressed, and Virginia will undoubtedly do its part.
The crisis created by the civilian revolt against the Assad regime has been exacerbated by the rise of ISIS (the Islamic State) an organization dedicated to creating an all-powerful caliphate, but is mostly a murderous organization akin to a street gang as opposed to a governmental entity.
While I am no expert in Middle East politics and policy, I do know something about the way groups like ISIS must be dealt with. I have worked with many cities around the country in dealing with youth violence problems by helping them develop strategic plans to reduce levels of violence and the influence of gangs in their communities.
In the early days of street gang activity in the United States the initial response was always suppression or law enforcement. Within a few years it was clear that you could not arrest and incarcerate your way out of gang problems and that a new strategy must be devised.
What is generally conceded to be the best approach is to rely on the three-legged stool of suppression, intervention, and prevention. All of us would like a quick and easy solution to the problem of ISIS but there are only long-term and comprehensive solutions that will work. Even if we are able to militarily dissolve ISIS, we will still be left with massive unrest and a void that will be filled by other irresponsible entities.
While we must continue military pressure on ISIS in a broad coalition of nations, we must also begin to address the intervention and prevention planning that will reduce the chances of one chaotic situation being replaced by another.
This is where all of us can play a role. Clearly in the short term we must intervene and address the needs of refugees to ensure that their health and education are seen to. We cannot afford a lost generation of refugees who are uneducated, unhealthy, and angry to the point of being susceptible to the next radical wave of ideas that they will be exposed to.
As the military solutions weaken ISIS we must involve ourselves through our government and our charitable efforts to assist the education and economic development programming that can help construct a firewall against these people’s susceptibility to further radicalization.
We cannot bomb our way out of this problem that has its origins in the politics of World War I. But we can do our fair share and assist our European allies in dealing with the flood of our fellow human beings who are in such great need.
It is not unreasonable to expect that our government’s vetting procedures will be thorough and as expeditious as possible to begin providing this relief. (Currently, refugees who come the United States must undergo a prolonged background check by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the State Department that takes between 18 and 24 months). Refugee camps are a short-term solution and a long-term problem.
This is a test of the character of our country and commonwealth and I believe that it is one that we can pass in a compassionate and responsible manner. Only long-term investments can deal with the problems of violence. There are no short-term solutions.
By Sen. Dave Marsden (D) represents the 37th District in the Virginia Senate, which includes much of the Annandale/Mason area. He can be reached at email@example.com, 804-698-7537 (Richmond), or 571-249-3037 (Burke).