Washington, Nov 26 (IANS/EFE) US President Barack Obama in a Thanksgiving Day message on Thursday said that letters he received in support of Syrian refugees were a demonstration of Americans’ “generosity”.
“I’ve been touched by the generosity of Americans who have written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL,” Obama said in a radio and internet address, using the US government’s acronym for the Islamic State.
Nearly four centuries after a group of English settlers seeking religious freedom arrived in the New World on the Mayflower in 1620, “the world is still full of pilgrims, men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families”, Obama said.
“What makes America America is that we offer that chance,” he added.
Following the deadly attacks in Paris and the revelation that one of the terrorists may have entered Europe as part of the wave of Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland, a debate has flared in the US about the advisability of taking in refugees from that Middle Eastern country.
Obama has said his plan to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year was unaffected by the Paris attacks even though 30 US states, nearly all of them Republican-governed, have said they would not take in those people.
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, defied Obama’s veto threat and passed a bill last week that would toughen screening of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Referring to security concerns, Obama said in Thursday’s message that “people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone travelling to the United States”.
Thanksgiving Day in the US is traced to a feast in 1621 by the Pilgrims in which they gave their appreciation to god for their first successful harvest in the New World.