Obama welcomes Iraq refugee among new U.S. citizens

Story highlights

  • Obama gave keynote remarks at the naturalization event held at the National Archives
  • There 31 candidates from 25 different countries will take the "Oath of Allegiance" to the United States

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama continued his pushback Tuesday against efforts to curb refugee entry into the United States, declaring at a naturalization ceremony in Washington that America risks repeating past injustices if it closes its doors to those fleeing war.

"In the Syrian seeking refuge today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II," Obama said at the National Archives, where 31 new citizens -- including a refugee from Iraq -- had just sworn the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
In his remarks, Obama renewed his tacit criticism of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who's proposed to barring all Muslims from entering the country. Standing before original copies of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, Obama warned against drifting from the values enshrined in those documents.
    "There's no respite from our ideals," Obama said. "All of us are called to live up to our expectations for ourselves, not just when it's convenient, but when it's inconvenient. When it's tough. When we're afraid."
    "The tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger: it's about more than just immigration, it's about the meaning of America," he added. "What kind of country do we want to be?"
    After terror attacks in Paris and California, Obama has sought to amplify his message on ISIS, including traveling to the Pentagon on Monday for an update from his military brass and to the National Counterterrorism Center Thursday for a briefing on holiday threats.
    But intertwined in those efforts have been entreaties to Americans to treat Muslims with fairness and respect, and not allow fear to tinge their views of their neighbors.
    "We must resolve to always speak out against hatred and bigoty in all of its forms," he said Tuesday. "Whether taunts against the child of an immigrant farmworker or threats against a Muslim shopkeeper. We are Americans. Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compels us to do. Especially when it's hard, especially when it's not convenient. That's when it counts. That's when it matters."
    Before the Republican candidate's call to ban Muslims from the country, the White House was pushing back on efforts to curb refugee entry into the U.S. following the terror attacks in Paris. Those attempts, mostly Republican-led, were prompted by fears terrorists could join the massive waves of migrants fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq and infiltrate the homeland.
    Obama has lambasted such efforts, saying those opposed to admitting refugees were reacting to fear.
    Since then, however, vetting processes for incoming foreigners have come under more intense scrutiny. Despite conducting three interviews with Tashfeen Malik, one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attack, officials missed social media postings supporting violent jihad.
    The White House says an ongoing review of the so-called "fiancée visa" program could result in greater allocation of resources for scrutinizing social media.