NY attack hangs over Obama push for action on refugees

NY attack hangs over Obama push for action on refugees
© Getty Images

President Obama on Tuesday will call for a new international commitment to deal with the worldwide refugee crisis even as presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE and other Republicans push to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. 

The president will outline his vision during remarks at a refugee summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a city struck by terrorism on Saturday.


Calls for Obama to reconsider his approach have been stirred anew by the latest attacks, which included homemade bombs in New York and New Jersey and stabbings in a Minnesota mall.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took credit for the Minnesota attack on Saturday reportedly carried out by Dahir Adan, a 22-year-old Somali-American who worked at a private security firm. Nine people were wounded in the stabbings; Adan was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer.

In New Jersey, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, was arrested Monday in connection with bombs left in New York City and Seaside Park, N.J.

The manhunt for Rahami, arrested after a shootout in New Jersey, instantly gave the GOP standard-bearer new fodder. 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE wants to increase what [Obama has] let in,” Trump said Monday on Fox News. “He’s let in thousands and thousands of people. They don’t know — they can’t be properly vetted, there’s no way. Our leaders are — I don’t even say weak, I say stupid.”

Calls for tighter curbs on immigration also came from a former Trump rival in Congress.

“Congress should act to prevent Americans who have travelled abroad for training from returning here, and to stop the flow of refugees from hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East that President Obama is determined to bring to our country,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant More than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State MORE (R-Texas), a former presidential candidate, said Monday.

The U.S. is accepting 10,000 refugees from Syria, and Obama wants the nation to accept 110,000 refugees from around the world next year.

That is a 30 percent increase from the total number the U.S. welcomed this year. 

Not since World War II has the world been forced to grapple with a refugee crisis on this scale; more than 65 million people have been driven from their homes, and 21 million have crossed international borders. 

The pressure to find a place for refugees is coinciding with deep fears in the United States over immigrants from the Middle East.

Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States last fall, a position for which he was criticized but that appeared to help him in the Republican primary.

Hillary Clinton has called for accepting 65,000 Syrian refugees next year, and on Tuesday said she has “long been an advocate for tough vetting.” 

But the Democratic nominee said the people fleeing violence in Syria are not the same kind of people who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001. 

“These were not refugees who got into airplanes and attacked our city and our country,” she told reporters Monday during a news conference. “So let’s not get diverted and distracted by the kind of campaign rhetoric we hear coming from the other side.”

Speaking in New York, Obama did not mention Trump by name, but he did warn Americans not to “succumb to that fear” following terror attacks.

Much remains unknown about Rahami and Adan, including whether they came to the United States as refugees. 

Advocates expressed dismay that those details have been lost in the debate, although they acknowledged it’s all but expected in a heated political season dominated by Trump’s tough talk on immigration. 

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, who added there is “no statistical evidence” that refugees are more likely to commit acts of terror. 

“Refugees like myself are very grateful Americans,” said Gebre, who fled Ethiopia as a teenager. “It’s a shame to see people like Trump play a game with a serious thing like refugees fleeing violence.”

The squabbling has cast a shadow over the president’s refugee meeting, expected to be one of the signature moments during his final appearance at the annual U.N. summit as president. 

Obama plans to announce new commitments from foreign governments and corporations to aid refugees, including a pledge to resettle 110,000 refugees from all nations inside the United States next year. 

Obama has faced criticism from all sides over his handling of the Syrian crisis. 

Human rights groups have praised the summit but also say it highlights the Obama administration’s failings in Syria. Obama has refused to directly intervene in the country’s five-year civil war with actions like setting up safe zones for refugees.

Dozens of countries are expected to announce new commitments at the summit, which is co-hosted by Jordan, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Ethiopia, according to administration officials. 

“This summit is not going to be a panacea,” Samantha PowerSamantha PowerHow Trump broke the system that offers protection to Afghan allies Aid airlift underway to earthquake-striken Haiti With Haiti in chaos, we must rewrite the script on disaster aid MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. “But it’s an example, I think, of the U.S. leveraging our unrivaled leadership ... to get countries to do things they would not otherwise have done if this meeting were not occurring.”

Power did not disclose the pledges from other countries. But on Monday, China announced it plans to contribute an additional $100 million to refugee relief efforts. Canada pledged a 10 percent increase in its overall humanitarian assistance efforts this year.

Refugee activists say the administration could still be doing more. 

“US leadership better if Syria refugees accepted (10K) matched Canada (35K) or Germany (500K),” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted Monday.

A coalition of 41 nongovernmental organizations have urged Obama to increase the U.S.’s overall refugee target to 200,000 next year. But Republicans in Congress, which funds refugee resettlement efforts, have posed a roadblock to further expansion.

Their opposition to a more generous refugee policy may harden after last weekend’s violence.