Blog Posts Related to the Arab American Community

  • ACCESS: A Champion Non-Profit

    Since 1971, ACCESS has worked to serve new Americans as they transition to life in the United States as well as our neighbors in need more broadly. From their headquarters in Dearborn, ACCESS works to provide social services to the diverse communities of Michigan. While they are rooted in the Arab-American experience, they perform their work in a culturally sensitive way to empower Michiganders of all backgrounds seeking to steady themselves and their families in these tough economic times. They are truly a Champion Non-Profit that has evolved over the past four decades while both celebrating their rich history as Arabs and affirming their place as a critical part of our American family.

    ACCESS 1

    ACCESS offers the Dearborn, Michigan community a wide range of programs and services that open doors to full civic engagement (Photo courtesy of ACCESS). December 9, 2011. (by ACCESS)

    This is how the leaders of ACCESS describe the organization and their work:

    ACCESS began with a small group of volunteers who got together 40 years ago to help new immigrants adjust to life in Dearborn, Michigan, pairing one of the most cherished and ingrained characteristics of their Arab heritage – hospitality – with the American tradition of giving back. Through English classes, tax assistance and help with other aspects of a complicated new life in the United States, the volunteers extended their hands to the newcomers – Armenians, Chaldeans, Yemenis, Iraqis, Palestinians and many others who came to the United States seeking a better life.

    Today, ACCESS is the largest Arab American human services organization in the United States and offers more than 100 programs housed in eight facilities throughout metropolitan Detroit. Our immigration and translation services and English and civics classes make citizenship accessible for hundreds each year. Children, students and their parents have access to high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, summer sessions, recreation and sports programs.

  • President Obama Meets with World Leaders on Day Two at the U.N General Assembly

    UNGA: potus shakes hands with Clinton at Global Initiative

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with former President Bill Clinton after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    President Obama marked the 19th anniversary of the International Day of Peace with a series of meetings and events as he participated in the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The President began his day with an address to the General Assembly, where he spoke about the remarkable changes that have occurred throughout the world since the last gathering of this group:

    This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

    Following the address, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and pledged America’s commitment to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. The Prime Minister agreed with President Obama's assertion that direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine are the only way to achieve that goal:

    I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.  And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations -- in fact, to avoid them. Because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for peace.

  • President Obama to the U.N. General Assembly: "Peace Is Hard, but We Know that It Is Possible"

    Watch President Obama address the U.N. General Assembly here.

    Today President Obama struck a hopeful note in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on overcoming the numerous challenges that stand in the way of a lasting peace. He advocated for peace defined by more than the absence of war, saying: “a lasting peace -- for nations and for individuals -- depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom.”

    The President reminded the General Assembly of the progress the United States has made towards a new direction of peace: 

    The tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

    Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city. Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.
     
    So, yes, this has been a difficult decade. But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace.  To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.”  And Article 1 of this General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.” Those bedrock beliefs -- in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women -- must be our guide.
     
    And in that effort, we have reason to hope. This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation.  More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

  • First Ambassador of Free Libya Presents Credentials to President Obama

    President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali of Libya

    President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali of Libya, during a credentialing ceremony in the Oval Office, Sept. 9, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This afternoon, I had the privilege to accompany Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali to present his credentials to President Obama as the first Ambassador to the United States from a free Libya.  The ceremony was a powerful symbol of the transition underway in Libya and the strong support of the United States for the Transitional National Council and the Libyan people.

    Just seven months ago, Ambassador Aujali resigned as Ambassador in Washington in protest against the horrible violence perpetrated by the Qadhafi regime against its people.  He did so not knowing whether Qadhafi would survive and put down this uprising, just as Qadhafi had managed to repress any dissent throughout his 42-year rule.  But today, Ambassador Aujali came to the White House representing a new government that has recently taken over the capital and begun the long process of unifying and rebuilding Libya and undertaking an inclusive, democratic transition.

    Today’s ceremony also represents the continued evolution of American support to the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC).  At the July 15th Istanbul Libya Contact Group meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced our recognition of the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya at this time.  Last month, Ambassador Aujali reopened the Libyan Embassy in Washington under the flag of the new Libya.  We hope to reopen our Embassy in Tripoli in the coming weeks.  And today, we became one of the first countries around the world to fully credential a Libyan ambassadors representing the new Libya.

    I look forward to working with Ambassador Aujali and his team in the coming months to continue strengthening the ties between the United States and Libya.  I am confident he will be a great advocate for continued partnership, just as he worked tirelessly with our government to help ensure that more than 1500 Libyan students and their families could remain in the United States and continue their studies when the conflict interrupted their funding.  

  • President Obama on Libya: The future is in the Hands of its People

    Watch the President's full remarks here.

    This afternoon, following a call with the National Security Council, President Obama spoke about the evolving situation in Libya. Over the past six months, the United States has worked with allies to protect the people of Libya from Muammar Qaddafi's brutality and support them as they seek the opportunity for the citizens of Libya to determine their own destiny. Today, President Obama said, "The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people," making it clear that the courage of the Libyan people has brought freedom within reach:

    Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya.  This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo.  In the face of these protests, the Qaddafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns.  Civilians were murdered in the streets.  A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people.  Qaddafi threatened to hunt peaceful protestors down like rats.  As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.

    In the face of this aggression, the international community took action.  The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians.  An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations.  And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

    In the early days of this intervention the United States provided the bulk of the firepower, and then our friends and allies stepped forward.  The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people.  And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.

  • President Obama: "The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way."

    Today, President Obama called for the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to step aside and took the strongest financial action action against the Syrian regime thus far.  Here is President Obama's full statement on the situation in Syria:

    The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples’ pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy. They have braved ferocious brutality at the hands of their government. They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality – day after day, week after week. The Syrian government has responded with a sustained onslaught. I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime. These violations of the universal rights of the Syrian people have revealed to Syria, the region, and the world the Assad government’s flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people.
     
    The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government.  The European Union has imposed sanctions as well.  We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria’s actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.
     
    The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
     
    The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.
     
    As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people.  I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria.  This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others. 
     
    We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.
    • blocks the property of the Syrian government,
    • bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and 
    • bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products.  

  • Broadening the Conversation on Immigration Reform

    White House Immigration Roundtable

    The White House met with leaders from a variety of ethnic communities to discuss the way forward on immigration reform August 11, 2011. (by Tom Miller)

    Immigration is at the beginning of every American story.  Since this country’s founding, immigrants and the children of immigrants have built America’s cities, fought in our wars, and helped to author our history. The issue of immigration reform, then, is one whose importance extends beyond the boundaries of any single demographic. Last week, leaders from a variety of ethnic communities – from Irish, to Polish, to Macedonian and many others - met at the White House to discuss the way forward on immigration reform.

    It was a spirited discussion featuring representatives from communities that do not necessarily share common domestic or foreign policy goals. What they do share – and what came through at the meeting – was their deep pride for their immigrant heritage and the agreement that their voice is critical to the debate on fixing our broken immigration system. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley stopped by to reiterate the President’s commitment to addressing this issue, and to listen to ideas about how the Administration and the country can make progress.

    President Obama is determined to create an immigration system that makes sense and meets the needs of America’s 21st century economy. He will continue to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to secure our borders while strengthening our economic competitiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs. The Administration has also taken important steps to improve our immigration system within the boundaries of existing laws, dedicating unprecedented resources to border security and making interior and worksite enforcement smarter and more effective.

    The people around the table at last week's meeting shared a wide range of ideas, and they didn’t always agree on everything. What they did agree on, though, was that the first step in addressing this issue effectively must be to mobilize Americans in cities all across the country and ensure that the debate has a diverse array of voices calling for immigration reform.  They committed to joining other Americans to dedicating their voices to the debate and will host several immigration roundtables across the country in the coming months. 

     You can learn more about this important issue, by reading the President’s Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System or by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigration.  Make your voice a part of the debate by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction to see how you can host a conversation in your own community. 

    Kyle Lierman is the White House Liaison to Ethnic Americans.

  • President Obama Hosts an Iftar Dinner to Celebrate Ramadan

    Watch the President's full remarks at the Iftar dinner here.

    Continuing a tradition at the White House, last night President Obama hosted his third Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan. The Iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset. The President was joined in the State Dining Room by two Muslim American members of Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, members of the diplomatic corps, and Muslim American families and service members. During his remarks the President wished a blessed Ramadan to Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world:

    To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and more -- the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion.  It’s an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings.  So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem. 

    This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation.  Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. 

    In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts.  It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade.  And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans.