- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

President Obama made a pitch Tuesday for Americans to remember their immigrant roots, describing the U.S. as the traditional home for refugees fleeing the world’s worst troubles.

He compared today’s climate of fear over immigration and terrorism to what he called some of the darkest days of the country’s immigrant history, such as when black Africans were brought in the slave trade, when Irish and Chinese faced discrimination and when Japanese were pushed into internment camps during World War II.

“In the Syrian refugee of today we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II,” the president said as he addressed several dozen newly sworn-in citizens at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Obama is trying to regain his footing after years of Congress ignoring his demand that they legalize illegal immigrants, and more recently after terrorist attacks in Paris and California raised fears over adherents to radical Islam using the immigration system to sneak into the U.S.

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has called for a temporary halt to admitting Muslims into the U.S., while a large bipartisan majority in Congress has demanded more checks on Mr. Obama’s own vow to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year.

The president warned against giving in to those demands, saying the country has always struggled with those sorts of calls at difficult times.

“We succumbed to fear. We betrayed not only our fellow Americans but our deepest values,” he said. “We need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that ever again.”

The president told the new citizens they now have full rights but also responsibilities to be educated about democracy, to vote, and to stand up for the rights of others.

Mr. Obama also told the new citizens about the times when he said the U.S. has failed immigrants — including twice mentioning slavery and the black Africans who “were brought here in chains against their will” as one of the more troubled aspects of the immigration story.

Among those naturalized Tuesday was an Iraqi man who aided U.S. troops during the recent war, fled the country and came to the U.S. as a refugee because his work for the Americans made him a target.

The Obama administration has predicted Syrian refugees will be similar to Iraqi refugees, and insists the U.S. is prepared to handle the new influx thanks to the lessons it learned in vetting those Iraqis.

But opponents say the U.S. had access to far more information about Iraqi refugee applicants than it does for those from Syria, where a hostile regime controls the government and much of the rest of the country is controlled by the Islamic State terrorists with whom the U.S. is at war.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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