President Barack Obama will call on the global community to open its arms to wayfaring migrants when he visits with persecuted Muslim refugees and other poor youth at a foundation tomorrow in Malaysia.
His visit to the Dignity for Children Foundation will likely be overshadowed by his administration's troubles back home with its own migrant policy, however, and a Congress that's eager to put new limitations on which refugees the U.S. will take.
Top-polling Republican presidential candidates have used the ISIS-instigated Paris terrorist attack a week ago to lobby for bans on all Syrian refugees, and at least one has lobbied for a religious test that would keep out members of the Muslim population.
Donald Trump went a step further yesterday and backed a national database for all Muslims, regardless of legal status.
President Barack Obama, seen here today at a town hall, will call on the global community to open its arms to wayfaring migrants when he visits with persecuted Muslim refugees and other poor youth at a foundation tomorrow in Malaysia
He will visit with persecuted Muslim refugees and other poor youth at a foundation tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rohingya Muslim youth are see here in Kuala Lumpur in June
His visit to the Dignity for Children Foundation will likely be overshadowed by his administration's troubles back home with its own migrant policy, however, and a Congress that's eager to put new limitations on which refugees the U.S. will take
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia tomorrow, Obama will meet with refugees from all populations at the Dignity for Children Foundation, the White House says, many of whom belong to the Rohingya Muslim population of Myanmar.
The 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims who live in western Myanmar are an ethnic minority that have been persecuted and denied citizenship from that country's government.
The Rohingya have fled Myannmar in droves, seeking better conditions. Many are abused by smugglers and are physically ailing and suffering malnutrition when they arrive in Malaysia, The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says, and need medical attention and counseling.
Their situation doesn't always improve dramatically when they arrive in their host country, though it says.
Refugees 'are unable to work legally, and over half of their children are not getting any education,' UNHCR Commissioner António Guterres said in an October speech to the group's executive committee.
Speaking about the worldwide refugee crisis, Guterres asserted that 'the interlinked mega-crises in Syria and Iraq' have uprooted 15 million people alone.
Tomorrow Obama will visit a center in Malaysia that provides education and shelter to victims of human trafficking, including the Rohingya youth. 'He’ll have an opportunity to meet with a number of refugees and to hear their stories, and also to talk to the officials who are administering the refugee center,' Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters travelling with the president today during a briefing.
During the stop, Rhodes said Obama would 'focus on the importance of countries like Malaysia hosting refugees who have been forced to flee from their homes for a variety of circumstances.'
The Obama adviser pointedly said the president will use the occasion to 'underscore' that the refugee crisis is 'a global challenge.'
'Different nations have to play their part. They will play their part in hosting refugees. They will play their part in taking in refugees.'
The United States accepted 70,000 refugees for resettlement in the fiscal year that ended in September. In the current one it has committed to taking in another 15,000. By 2017 it will be ushering in 100,000 a year.
At least 10,000 of those will be Syrians, the State Department has said.
Obama is seen here arriving in Malaysia today. During the stop tomorrow at the center refugees and poor youth the White House says Obama wil 'focus on the importance of countries like Malaysia hosting refugees who have been forced to flee from their homes for a variety of circumstances'
An Obama adviser pointedly said the president will use the occasion to 'underscore' that the refugee crisis is 'a global challenge.'
Republicans are up in arms about the missive, and many have raised concerns that migrants coming from hot beds of terror could secretly be radicals.
A terrorist connected to last Friday's slaughter in Paris snuck into Europe with a group of Syrian refugees, authorities have determined.
Kentucky Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul introduced legislation in the Senate this week that would prevent the Obama administration from issuing visas to residents of 'countries that have large jihadist movements' until a thorough background check is completed.
And when they are in the country, the bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to monitor them throughout their stay for terrorist ties.
'It's about time, and Paris should wake us up that we can't just let anyone come to this country,' Paul told reporters, according to the Washington Post.
Democrats meanwhile blocked legislation from Texas Senator Ted Cruz that would prohibit the government from bringing in refugees from 'terrorist-controlled territory.'
In addition to Syria, Cruz, attempted to prevent migrants from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, from entering the United States.
Cruz first said the proposal would exclusively target 'Syrian Muslim refugees' but broadened it when he came before Congress.
In the House of Representatives yesterday, lawmakers passed legislation with a veto-proof majority requiring U.S. national security agencies to aggressively vet all refugees for potential terrorist ties and certify they are not a threat to the U.S. before the applications for resettlement can be approved.
The White House expressed confidence today that the bill won't go anywhere in the Senate. But Rhodes acknowledged that the legislative pushes distract from the message the president intends to deliver tomorrow.
'Part of America’s leadership in getting other countries to do their part is that we do our own,' he said. 'And we set back our own leadership in the world if we’re not doing the very thing that we want other countries to do. We can’t say to other countries, “You need to take in refugees; you need to take your fair share, but we’re going to slam the door.” '
Rhodes said, 'That could create a dynamic, frankly, that is very dangerous...where other countries say, okay, none of us are going to take in refugees, the United States is not doing it.'
'And suddenly you have masses of displaced peoples who are essentially in limbo. That, clearly, is a recipe for greater instability.'
Referencing the political debate about the refugees, he said, 'I do think that, in the current context, his message is all the more important -- that we recognize that there’s populations who were forced to flee their homes, not necessarily because they want to, but because they’re suffering either violence or extreme poverty, or they’re victims of human trafficking.'
Migrants, who were found at sea on a boat, try to get some water at a temporary shelter in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine. The US warned at the time that it was monitoring their fate 'very closely.' The plight of the Rohingya Muslims, 1.3 million of whom live in western Myanmar but are mostly denied citizenship, has come under scrutiny as a migrant crisis unfurls in Southeast Asia
'It is a risk that if we shut the door, other nations will shut the door,' he said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted 'that there were a lot of outspoken voices' Syrian child and Democrats and some Republicans advocated for the administration to do more.
'People were asking why isn’t the White House making a more aggressive commitment to bringing on more refugees,' Earnest reminded reporters. 'I said time and time again under pressing questioning, that the President’s top priority was in ensuring the national security of the United States, and that it made sense -- even though it was an extensive process for us to have proper screening in place.'
He said, 'I don’t know whether people have changed their views or opinions on that based on the vote that they cast last night.'
Rhodes further argued that the refugee program, which was first established in the 1970s, 'is not just something we do out of charity; it’s something that we benefit from -- because in the long run, these immigrant populations are part of what continues to renew America.'
The administration official said he didn't want to speak for the president - he'll do that tomorrow, but 'clearly, he’ll address the current context and the current debate, and the need for us to do our fair share.'
Reporters did not ask the senior White House officials about Trump's tracking system for Muslims during the gaggle. They'll have an opportunity to bring it up to the president directly on Sunday, however, at news conference concluding his nine-day trip to Asia.
Obama arrives in Washington on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday he'll meet with French President Francois Hollande at the White House for a bilateral meeting.
Hollande has said France will keep taking in migrants in spite of the killings in his country, calling it the country's 'humanitarian duty.'
'Our country has the duty to respect this commitment, he said Thursday in remarks.
'We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values,' he said.
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Obama to visit Malaysia refugee center
US President Barack Obama has touched down in Malaysia for the last leg of his trip to Southeast Asia.
The president arrived on Air Force One in Kuala Lumpur at midday after a short flight from the Philippines. His first stop is a town hall meeting with young Southeast Asian leaders, where the president planned to answer questions.
Obama will also hold a meeting today with Prime Minister Najib Razak. The Malaysian leader is under investigation over corruption allegations.
While in Malaysia, Obama will attend the East Asia summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit. He'll also visit a refugee center in Kuala Lumpur, in a visit taking on heightened importance amid the controversy that erupted after the Paris attacks over Syrian refugees entering the US.—AP