President Obama noted today that “the world is currently focused on the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, where years of civil war have forced millions to flee to other countries to escape the bloodshed.” But he added, “the world must not forget about some 60 million people who have been displaced around the globe.”
While visiting a learning center for children that serves the poor and refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the president pushed back on efforts of a xenophobic Congress and Republican state governors to bar Syrian refugees from entering the United States “vowing that his country will be a welcoming place for millions fleeing violence around the world as long as I’m president we are going to keep stepping up… these youngsters represent the opposite of terror, the opposite of the type of despicable violence we saw in Mali and Paris…”Anybody who had a chance to see those kids, hopefully you understood the degree to which they’re just like our kids. They deserve love and stability and protection.”
Consider the history of our country, in which some of the first settlers to reach our shores came in search of freedom to practice their faith. Rooted in the Declaration of Independence, the American Dream, which was wonderfully expressed by James Truslow Aams in 1931, notes: “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.” Historically, “Americans have traditionally welcomed and embraced refugees to the U.S. Whether refugees come from Nepal, Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Somalia or another part of the world, all refugees share a similar journey…Refugees flee their country to save their lives. They run from war and persecution, often losing or leaving behind beloved family members along the way…Many refugees then spend years and sometimes decades in substandard refugee camps. Less than 1% of all refugees get the chance to leave a camp and resettle in the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Australia, or another country which resettles refugees.”
The particular children with whom the president met “have all been cleared to come to the U.S….” Most of the children are Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, which has been persecuted by a Buddhist majority in Myanmar. As The Huffington Post reminds us, it is not only those that pervert Islam that terrorize. Indeed, “tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape persecution by the country’s Buddhist majority, with many ending up in Malaysia.”
Last week’s Paris attacks have led many hate-mongering, xenophobic Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers to try to prevent or delay accepting Syrian refugees into our country – ostensibly, out of concern that terrorists could try to slip in with them. Forgetting for the moment that none of terrorists involved in the Paris tragedy were Syrian refugees, the Republicans fail to consider – as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reminds us – that we already have a vetting policy for the admittance of refugee applicants that has historically served us very well. As both as the leader of the free world and a man with an overwhelming concern for promoting human welfare – President Obama has “rejected that idea and pledged to veto any bill sent to him to block Syrians from entering” – instead he offers the welcoming hand of American love, protection, and stability.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.