On Establishing Migrant Safe Zones

By Dan Cadman on November 18, 2015

For the last several months, we at the Center for Immigration Studies have been examining the issue of Syrian refugee admissions with a skeptical eye, believing that vetting would be inadequate to protect public safety — notwithstanding administration assurances to the contrary (see here, here, and here).

The refugee and asylum programs are riddled with fraud in the best of times; in the worst of times, they invoke the specter of multiple terror attacks and mass casualties. That is the case with admitting thousands of unknowns pipelined from Syria and the surrounding region. If what happened in Paris a few days ago doesn't bring that home with certainty to you, then you are most assuredly living in a parallel universe.

As so carefully laid out by CIS scholars Karen Zeigler and Steven Camarota in a recent paper, relocating refugees to the United States by the thousands is expensive and often ineffectual, in addition to putting the homeland in jeopardy. It makes better sense to establish safe zones in areas that are geographically and demographically more proximate to the populations requiring assistance. Many more people could receive substantive assistance this way.

The idea has much to recommend it, if done competently, compassionately, and with due regard to the native populations in which such zones will exist. They, too, in many instances live hardscrabble existences, and will resent it if the displaced compete with them for jobs or appear to be living better thanks to international handouts. To the extent they can be, such zones must be encouraged toward self-sufficiency, but with enough ties of mutual economic gain to the communities around them that they do not become ghettoized factories of malcontent and extremism.

The discovery of a Syrian "refugee's" passport by the mangled remains of one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks seems to have done wonders in focusing the minds of at least a few of the Republican presidential candidates, including Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, all of whom are now calling for creation of such zones in lieu of admitting thousands of dubiously vetted individuals.

Each of these politicians has shown a continuing interest in, and advocacy for, broad-based amnesty. The question for them to answer is this: If safe zones work for displaced Middle Eastern migrants, why should we adopt a "let them all come/let them all stay" policy for Central Americans or others here, as is being done with the Central American Minors (CAM) program? Isn't there a better model that we should be considering?