Obama to welcome Iraq refugee among new U.S. citizens
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama was set Tuesday to continue his pushback against efforts to curb refugee entry into the United States, addressing new U.S. citizens — including a refugee from Iraq — at a ceremony in Washington.
The White House said Obama would deliver keynote remarks at the naturalization event held at the National Archives, where 31 candidates from 25 different countries will take the “Oath of Allegiance” to the United States.
Also likely: more tacit criticism from Obama on Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the country.
“The President will speak about the American tradition of being a welcoming society and the incredible contributions of immigrants and refugees to our nation,” a White House official said previewing the event.
After terror attacks in Paris and California, Obama has sought to amplify his message on ISIS, including traveling to the Pentagon Monday for an update from his military brass and to the National Counterterrorism Center Thursday for a briefing on holiday threats.
But intertwined in those efforts have been entreaties to Americans to treat Muslims with fairness and respect, and not allow fear to tinge their views of their neighbors.
Last week, as Trump defended his policy from harsh criticism, Obama implicitly rejected the anti-Muslim plan.
“We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms,” the President said at event marking 150 years since the abolition of slavery.
“Remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others, regardless of what they look like or where they come from or what their last name is or what faith they practice,” he added later, without mentioning Trump or his proposal specifically.
Before the Republican candidate’s call to ban Muslims from the country, the White House was pushing back on efforts to curb refugee entry into the U.S. following the terror attacks in Paris. Those attempts, mostly Republican-led, were prompted by fears terrorists could join the massive waves of migrants fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq and infiltrate the homeland.
Obama has lambasted such efforts, saying those opposed to admitting refugees were reacting to fear.
“As long as I’m president we’re going to keep on stepping up and make sure America remains as it’s always been: a place where people, who in other parts of the world are subject to discrimination or violence, that they have in America a friend and a place of refuge,” he said in Malaysia, where he visited a refugee center in November.
Since then, however, vetting processes for incoming foreigners have come under more intense scrutiny. Despite conducting three interviews with Tashfeen Malik, one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attack, officials missed social media postings supporting violent jihad.
The White House says an ongoing review of the so-called “fiancée visa” program could result in greater allocation of resources for scrutinizing social media.