US President Barack Obama on Tuesday drew a comparison between Syrian refugees today and Jewish refugees during World War II, during a speech at a naturalization ceremony of 31 petitioners seeking United States Citizenship held at the National Archive in Washington DC.
At the ceremony, marking the 224th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, Obama chided those who would seek to clamp down immigration, as he continued to defend his plan to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees in the US.
“In the Mexican immigrant today — we see the Catholic immigrant of a century ago. In the Syrian seeking refuge today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II. In these new Americans, we see our own American story,” the US president said.
Obama is seeking this week to reassure the public about his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group while also emphasizing that the United States is a welcoming country that promotes religious tolerance.
Some members of Congress have voiced worries that allowing more Syrian refugees into the country will make the nation more susceptible to a terrorist attack.
A number of Jewish groups have expressed support for welcoming Syrian refugees to the US, with many drawing comparisons to the plight of Jews during and after the Holocaust.
During his speech, Obama said to the soon-to-be American citizens, that America was an “immigrant nation,” but admitted that it hasn’t always lived up to its ideals.
“From the start, Africans were brought here, in chains against their will and then toiled under the whip. They also built America. During World War II, German and Italian residents were detained, and in one of the darkest chapters in our history, Japanese immigrants and even Japanese American citizens were forced from their homes and imprisoned in camps,” Obama said.
The rounding up of US citizens of Japanese descent was recently brought up by US Republican candidate Donald Trump, who cited the episode in defense of his call to ban all Muslims from entering the US. Trump’s positive view of the incident is the minority view. Mainstream Americans see the episode as an embarrassing chapter in modern American history.
“We succumbed to fear,” said Obama. “How quickly we forget! One generation passes, two generations pass and suddenly, we don’t remember where we came from. On days like today we need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that again,” Obama said.