President Obama on Saturday announced his invitation to Refaai Hamo a native of Syria now living in Detroit, to sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s box in the House of Representatives gallery for President Obama’s final State of the Union address. Hamo drew international attention last month after he was featured in the popular blog “Humans of New York.” By inviting Hamo, President Obama is showing he strongly opposes Republican efforts to slow or halt the admission of refugees. The scientist fled Syria’s civil war in 2013 after his family home was destroyed by a bomb, killing his wife, daughter and five other relatives. He developed stomach cancer and had trouble getting treatment in Turkey, where he and millions of other Syrians have fled. After two years, he was approved for refugee status in the United States and arrived in Detroit last month.
President Obama called him an inspiration and Hollywood star Edward Norton hosted a fundraising drive for him. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country after the recent terrorists attacks, inspired by the Islamic State militant group. Other GOP candidates also have suggested banning Syrian refugees. Obama and Democratic candidates, including front-runner Hillary Clinton, have called such proposals contrary to American values. Hamo released a statement showing his appreciation towards President Obama.
I was thrilled when I heard that President Barack Obama is welcoming us into the United States. I felt that hope was revived as well as the strength to continue my dreams and ambition in my new country. I am so proud and honored to be in this country and look forward to one day becoming an American citizen so that we can be part of making America a strong and great country.”
The State Department says that the vast majority of Syrian refugees admitted are women and children and that only a tiny fraction fit the typical terrorist profile: single, young men. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said any attempt to halt that program and screen people based on “some sort of religious test” is wrong. Obama has chosen to deliver a “nontraditional” State of the Union. Obama previewed his plan to talk about his vision for the future in a video teaser tweeted by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. One of those “big things” will be the President’s vision for U.S. leadership in the world in the post-Obama years.