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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why Obama Is Standing by the Syrian Refugees

National Journal
By Peter Beinart
November 23, 2015

Once upon a time, lib­er­als cri­ti­cized Barack Obama for only tak­ing on fights he knew he could win. Not any­more. In 2013, Obama re­spon­ded to the Sandy Hook shoot­ing with a fer­vent, if un­suc­cess­ful, push for gun con­trol. Now, over the past week, he has met the nat­iv­ist hys­teria sparked by the at­tacks in Par­is with an im­pas­sioned, en­raged rhet­or­ic­al bar­rage on be­half of the ad­mis­sion of Syr­i­an refugees. He has done so even though polls show that a clear ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans now op­pose ad­mit­ting any Syr­i­ans. And even though, last Thursday, 47 House Demo­crats broke with him to help over­whelm­ingly pass a bill that would make ad­mis­sion of Syr­i­an refugees vir­tu­ally im­possible.

Non­ethe­less, Obama has been un­yield­ing. Last Monday, from Tur­key, he went after Ted Cruz, de­clar­ing: “When I hear polit­ic­al lead­ers sug­gest­ing that there would be a re­li­gious test for which per­son who’s flee­ing from a war-torn coun­try is ad­mit­ted when some of those folks them­selves come from fam­il­ies who be­nefited from pro­tec­tion when they were flee­ing polit­ic­al per­se­cu­tion, that’s shame­ful. That’s not Amer­ic­an.” On Tues­day, in the Phil­ip­pines, Obama tar­geted Chris Christie for be­ing “wor­ried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.” On Wed­nes­day, he fired off six straight tweets on the sub­ject, the last of which de­clared: “Slam­ming the door in the face of refugees would be­tray our deep­est val­ues. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re go­ing to do.” Then, after meet­ing refugee chil­dren on Sat­urday in Malay­sia, he de­clared: “Amer­ic­an lead­er­ship is us caring about people who have been for­got­ten or who have been dis­crim­in­ated against or who’ve been tor­tured or who’ve been sub­ject to un­speak­able vi­ol­ence or who’ve been sep­ar­ated from fam­il­ies at very young ages. That’s when we’re the shin­ing light on the hill.”

Why is Obama pick­ing a fight on an is­sue that, ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Chris Cil­lizza, is a “polit­ic­al win­ner” for the GOP?

Every pres­id­ent tells the story of Amer­ica’s past to jus­ti­fy the policies he’s pur­su­ing in the present. For George W. Bush, the story was about Amer­ica be­ing roused from its com­pla­cency by ex­tern­al danger. In 1999, then can­did­ate Bush quotedWin­ston Churchill as de­clar­ing, in the late 1930s, “The era of pro­cras­tin­a­tion, of half meas­ures-of sooth­ing and baff­ling ex­pedi­ents, of delays, is com­ing to a close.” Then, in his second in­aug­ur­al, Bush de­scribed his own era as “years of re­l­at­ive quiet, years of re­pose, years of sab­bat­ic­al” fol­lowed by “a day of fire.” The im­plic­a­tion was that to ful­fill his role in his­tory, Bush needed to rally Amer­ic­ans against the evil that lurked bey­ond their shores.

Obama tells the story of U.S. his­tory dif­fer­ently: as Amer­ica over­com­ing the evil with­in it­self. In his 2008 Demo­crat­ic con­ven­tion speech, he talked about “a prom­ise that has led im­mig­rants to cross oceans and pi­on­eers to travel west, a prom­ise that led work­ers to pick­et lines and wo­men to reach for the bal­lot.” The first two ref­er­ences—to im­mig­rants es­cap­ing for­eign op­pres­sion and pi­on­eers over­com­ing nature’s hard­ships—are stand­ard polit­ic­al fare. But by twin­ning them with work­ers bat­tling ex­ploit­a­tion and wo­men bat­tling sex­ism, Obama sug­ges­ted that ex­tern­al and phys­ic­al forces aren’t the only bar­ri­ers to Amer­ic­an pro­gress. Some­times, the bar­ri­ers are oth­er Amer­ic­ans.

It’s a theme that re­curs in Obama’s speeches. In his first in­aug­ur­al, he said Amer­ica’s “great­ness” resided in those Amer­ic­ans who “traveled across oceans in search of a new life … settled the West … and plowed the hard earth” but also those who “toiled in sweat­shops and en­dured the lash of the whip.” In oth­er words, the United States achieved great­ness be­cause Amer­ic­ans seek­ing dig­nity and free­dom tri­umphed over Amer­ic­ans who sought to deny them those things. In Obama’s second in­aug­ur­al, he talked about the “star that guides us” to­ward full equal­ity, “just as it guided our fore­bears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stone­wall.” This March, on the 50th an­niversary of the march from Selma to Mont­gomery, he said what oc­curred there was “a clash of wills; a con­test to de­term­ine the true mean­ing of Amer­ica.”

Ob­vi­ously, Obama knows the United States faces en­emies abroad. But un­like Bush, who took World War II and the Cold War as his pre­ced­ents for the “war on ter­ror” and thus cast Amer­ica as a vir­tu­ous na­tion men­aced by for­eign malevol­ence, Obama refers fre­quently to Amer­ica’s malevol­ence with­in. He sees U.S. his­tory as a series of mor­al struggles pit­ting Amer­ic­ans seek­ing equal op­por­tun­ity and full cit­izen­ship against Amer­ic­ans who de­fend an un­just or big­oted status quo.

Obama clearly sees the cur­rent nat­iv­ist, bigotry-laden, hys­teria as such a struggle. He knows he may not win. But he wants fu­ture his­tor­i­ans to know ex­actly where he stood. They will. And as a res­ult, I sus­pect, they’ll re­cord the Syr­i­an refugee battle among his finest hours.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

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