At refugee center in Malaysia, Obama calls on US to welcome the ‘forgotten’ – Los Angeles Times

The young woman was never identified, even though the president of the United States was about to make her the public face of an international crisis.

At 8 years old she fled Myanmar and, separated from her family, became a victim of trafficking before the United Nations helped her resettle in Malaysia. Now, she advocates on behalf of others facing a similar plight, a role she played symbolically here Saturday as President Obama introduced her and six others who would soon be resettling in the U.S. as “the face of people all around the world who look to the United States as a beacon of hope.”

“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,” Obama said. “That’s when we’re the shining light on the hill. Not when we respond on the basis of fear.”

Obama’s remarks, an implicit rebuke of the debate roiling back home over whether to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S., came during his visit to a center here that assists refugees who have fled to Malaysia.

The long-scheduled stop during his 10-day, three-nation tour seemed a safer way for Obama to acknowledge the global crisis over a flow of migrants from war-torn countries than if he’d made a similar visit earlier in his trip, which began in Turkey, at the doorstep of the Syrian crisis.

White House officials insisted that scheduling and logistics concerns, not political ones, dictated the schedule, and that bringing refugees to the heavily secured resort city in Turkey where Obama attended the Group of 20 summit would have appeared manufactured.

Coming in the wake of last week’s Paris terrorist attacks, Obama used the refugee center visit here to again assail what he has called a “spasm” of anti-refugee rhetoric in the U.S., which included House-passed legislation to raise new barriers to admitting refugees from Syria.

The Islamic State extremist group that holds large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria has claimed credit for the attacks.


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