KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, President Obama vowed Saturday to keep United States borders open to refugees “as long as I’m president” as he visited a Malaysian humanitarian center and met migrant children, many of whom escaped violence in homelands that include Myanmar, Pakistan and Syria.
Obama, in Malaysia for the 3rd ASEAN-U.S. Summit, chatted with young children at the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, asking them what they want to be when they grow up and observing their drawings. At the same time, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on both sides of the aisle continue to feud with the administration over refugee screenings.
“They were indistinguishable from any child in America,” Obama said after meeting the children. “And the notion that somehow we would be fearful of them, that our politics would somehow leave us to turn our sights away from their plight, is not representative of the best of who we are.”
Thursday, the House passed legislation to impose rigorous screening on Syrian and Iraqi refugees entering the United States. The bill would subject each of the some 10,000 refugees to vetting from various government agencies including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The administration said it is a virtually impossible task. Obama, who returns to the United States on Monday, promised to veto the legislation.
In the president’s weekly radio address, taped by Vice President Joe Biden and released Saturday, Biden said refugees, “face the most rigorous screening of anyone who comes to the United States.” That includes finger printing and a host of background checks that take up to 24 months.
“Let’s also remember who the vast majority of these refugees are: women, children, orphans, survivors of torture, people desperately in need of medical help. To turn them away and say there is no way you can ever get here would play right into the terrorists’ hands. We know what ISIL — we know what they hope to accomplish. They flat-out told us,” said Biden, referring to the extremist group that also goes by the names Islamic State, ISIS and Daesh.
By Amy R. Connolly