Congressman Jared Polis addressed the Syrian crisis and immigration issues while speaking at Judaism in the Foothills in Evergreen on Friday night.
“Clearly, we do not want to be mired down in Syria,” Polis said. “The question is, ‘What role can America play?’ ”
Approximately 1,400 people recently were killed with a nerve gas in Syria, and President Obama is seeking congressional approval for U.S. military intervention in the strife-filled country.
Polis said he would need to be briefed and learn more about the political situation in Syria before taking a position. The Boulder Democrat also pointed out that genocide previously has occurred in other countries such as Rwanda.
“It’s wrong, no matter what weapon is used,” he remarked.
Polis said he has been opposed to the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think our role in Afghanistan has helped,” he said. “We should not have had the arrogance to have pursued it.”
Polis also commented on ongoing conflicts between Israel and Arab countries.
“It’s obviously of great interest for the Arab and Jewish worlds to get along together,” he said. “Economic development is critical,” especially in the West Bank of Palestine.
While focusing on immigration issues, Polis said he has been on a mission to help immigrant students with their needs.
When deciding to enter politics after a career as a successful entrepreneur, Polis said, he realized that what these youths need is immigration reform.
“I knew I had to go to the political level,” he said.
Before his election to Congress in 2008, Polis founded two charter schools for at-risk students, one of which is the New America School serving immigrant youths in their late teens and early 20s.
“We have our challenges with immigration and education,” said Polis. “We all know opportunity is not equally distributed.”
In American society, talents of impoverished students can be squandered, he remarked.
“We can do a lot better to ensure that no talent is squandered,” Polis said.
“We want to tell kids, ‘You can live the American dream.’ ”
“As Jews, we have the experience of being strangers in a strange land,” Polis remarked.
However, laws are needed for immigration reform — including increased border security and a mandatory electronic verification of credentials, he said.
“I don’t think any one thing works. You’ve got to do it all,” Polis said.
“Any immigration reform should reduce the deficit,” he added. “Only at the federal level can this be reconciled.”
Responding to a question about helping Native Americans, Polis said those youth have the opportunity to attend college at no cost.
While speaking about the federal deficit, Polis said it has been reduced somewhat with income tax adjustments, cuts to federal programs and recovery of the economy.
Polis said he supported the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the federal deficit, which he believed was moving in the right direction. However, only a minority of the U.S. House members voted for the bill, he noted.
“It’s going to have to be a solution that everyone can live with,” he said about legislation to reduce to deficit.
Polis also commented on the Affordable Care Act, which he said is better than having 45 million uninsured Americans.
“It’s far from perfect, and needs some changes,” he said.
Responding to a question about the legalization of marijuana, Polis said it should be a controlled substance like tobacco and alcohol, and not be federally prohibited.
Polis also addressed hydraulic fracturing — a process that uses pressurized water to break up rock and extract oil and gas from the soil — and its effects on communities.
“I’m not against it,” he said. “It can be used appropriately or inappropriately.”
Fracking should take place in locations where there are no negative impacts on families and homes, he said.
“This is an appropriate issue for local control,” Polis remarked.
While at the gathering, Polis also talked about his transition from being an entrepreneur to a politician. Both pursuits have similarities, he said.
“As an entrepreneur, I was hustling every day,” he said. “In Congress, we need to pitch ideas from the ground up.”
“Congressman Polis found a way to give things back,” said Rabbi Levi Brackman while introducing him to the gathering. “At a young age, he decided to give back. That is the Jewish way.”
The 2nd Congressional District, which Polis represents, was redrawn after the last census to include more conservative areas like Evergreen and Conifer in a district that formerly had Boulder as its epicenter.
Contact Sandy Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.