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Border Wall, Student Suspension, Syria: RAND Weekly Recap

January 11, 2019

This week, we discuss what a border wall could realistically accomplish; how schools can reduce suspensions; walking back the U.S. withdrawal from Syria; ways that churches help improve health in their communities; the chance of peace in the Taiwan Strait; and countering future terrorism.

After crossing from Mexico by jumping a border fence, migrants run next to a prototype of the border wall in Otay County, California, December 21, 2018

After crossing from Mexico by jumping a border fence, migrants run next to a prototype of the border wall in Otay County, California, December 21, 2018

Photo by Mohammed Salem/Reuters

What Border Walls Can and Cannot Accomplish

Since ancient times, states have been building walls to keep populations in and to keep invaders out. RAND's Raphael Cohen writes that such walls do work, at least for a time. But they are merely a “delaying obstacle”—a tactic rather than a strategy. “As long as life in the United States offers potential migrants more opportunities and fewer perceived dangers than their home countries, illegal immigration will likely persist,” he says.

Three elementary school children and a teacher sitting in a circle

Pressmaster/Adobe Stock

Restorative Practices Can Reduce Student Suspensions

Restorative practices are methods for resolving conflict that focus on building and repairing relationships. How does this approach work in the classroom setting? According to a new RAND report, restorative practices reduced student suspensions in Pittsburgh Public Schools. The decreases were more prevalent among elementary students, African-American students, students from low-income families, and female students.

A soldier stands guard near a poster of Syria's President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Rastan, Syria, June 6, 2018

A soldier stands guard near a poster of Syria's President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Rastan, Syria, June 6, 2018

Photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Confusion Over the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria

Administration officials this week began to walk back President Trump's announced pullout from Syria. RAND's James Dobbins says these developments are a step in the right direction. The campaign against ISIS is not entirely over. And the United States still has obligations to its partners in Syria. Dobbins also says that Washington's attitude toward the Assad regime warrants a review.

Kathryn Derose at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California

RAND's Kathryn Derose at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Faith-Based Organizations Are Helping Communities Get Healthier

Kathryn Derose is a senior policy researcher at RAND and an Episcopal deacon. She works with Latino and African-American churches to understand how social ills like poverty and prejudice impact the health of communities. Derose's research has shown the power of the pulpit to fight health disparities, counter stigma, and encourage healthy living.

Chinese President Xi Jinping listens to a speech during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, January 2, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping at an event commemorating the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” in Beijing, January 2, 2019

Photo by Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters

Is Peace in the Taiwan Strait Possible?

The chance of a peace deal between China and Taiwan is exceptionally low, says RAND's Derek Grossman. Both sides have dug into their respective positions. And recent statements by Chinese President Xi Jinping could make cross-strait relations even more tense. Xi is re-emphasizing “one country, two systems,” a vision of China that Taiwan consistently rejects.

Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND event in Santa Monica, November 8, 2018

Brian Michael Jenkins speaks at the One Night with RAND event in Santa Monica, November 8, 2018

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Countering Future Terrorism

RAND recently paid tribute to Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of RAND and a leading authority on terrorism. Speakers at the event discussed the evolution of terrorism and its effect on the direction of U.S. national security. In his keynote remarks, Jenkins explained that terrorism has not turned out to be the existential threat that Americans feared in the shadow of 9/11, but continuing terror still threatens U.S. democracy.

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