President Obama’s Message To A Syrian Refugee: ‘Welcome’
In what appears to be a subtle jab at GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s motto “Make America Great Again,” President Barack Obama gave a virtual welcome to a Syrian refugee who recently found out he will be resettled in Troy, Michigan.
On Facebook, Obama wrote that he has high hopes for the man because he is “part of what makes America great.”
As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you’ve endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great.
Obama’s Facebook post was in response to seven-part series on the Humans of New York (HONY) photo blog — a project by photographer Brandon Stanton — that featured an unnamed Syrian refugee who used to work as a scientist and is currently living in Istanbul, Turkey.
The refugee said that two years ago, a government anti-personnel missile killed seven members of his family, including his wife and daughter. “My son had to carry the pieces of his mother and sister out of the house,” he said. “He was fourteen at the time… He’s not the same. Right after it happened, he’d write ‘mom’ in his notebook over and over.”
The man has cancer, which he attributed to “my sadness and my stress,” though he said that his friend in America “tells me that it’s an easy surgery.” He added, “I still think I have a chance to make a difference in the world… I learned today that I’m going to Troy, Michigan. I know nothing about it. I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work. I want to be a person again. I don’t want the world to think I’m over. I’m still here.”
The president’s welcoming response is at odds with more than 30 state lawmakers, primarily Republicans, who have resisted allowing Syrian refugees into the country in the aftermath of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. Lawmakers have recently written to the president asking him to “suspend all plans to resettle additional Syrian refugees,” claiming that these people pose a potential security risk. In Texas, state officials even sued the federal government in an attempt to block Syrians from settling there.
Syrian refugees already undergo intense security measures before they can even step foot on US. soil. The screening process itself averages 18 months to 24 months and involves a litany of evidence, interviews, and biometric data.
Since September 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees. In those years, “exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities — and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute wrote in a recent op-ed.
Elsewhere, Canadian Prime Minister was similarly enthusiastic about a Syrian refugee family that was on its way to Toronto on Thursday night. And Germany is now on track to registering one million asylum seekers this year, adopting an open-door policy towards those fleeing war.
The unnamed man’s story, though shocking, is not rare. Syrians have been fleeing the country’s deadly civil war since 2011, and many of them have grisly stories of seeing family members killed. Ghussoun al Hasan, a Syrian refugee, told ThinkProgress that she saw the army come to kill peaceful demonstrators — including her 27-year-old brother, who she says was killed for “photographing the protest and downloading it on YouTube.”