Blog Posts Related to the Arab American Community

  • 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  Make your voice a part of the debate by visiting 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.

  • Making It Easier for Immigrants to Start Companies in the United States

    The United States has a long, rich history of welcoming innovative entrepreneurs and skilled workers into our country.  These men and women fuel our nation’s economy by creating jobs, and promoting new technologies and ideas. Today, I joined Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and outlined a series of new policy, operational, and outreach efforts that will help fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment by making it easier for high-skill immigrants to start and grow companies and create jobs here in the United States.

    Encouraging the kinds of streamlining measures USCIS is taking today has been one key focus of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness because they help ensure that America can continue to out-innovate and out-compete the world in a global economy.

    As part of the Administration’s comprehensive effort to attract and retain high-skill entrepreneurs, USCIS announced today that it will:

    • Clarify that immigrant entrepreneurs may obtain an employment-based second preference (EB-2) immigrant visa if they satisfy the existing requirements, and also may qualify for a National Interested Waiver under the EB-2 immigrant visa category if they can demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the interest of the United States;
    • Expand the Premium Processing Service to immigrant petitions for multinational executives and managers;
    • Clarify when a sole employee-entrepreneur can establish a valid employer-employee relationship for the purposes of qualifying for an H-1B non-immigrant visa;
    • Implement fundamental enhancements to streamline the EB-5 process based directly on stakeholder feedback;
    • Launch new engagement opportunities to seek input and feedback on how to address the unique circumstances of entrepreneurs, new businesses and startup companies.

    Today, I am also launching Conversations with the Director, a new series of small group meetings I will hold to discuss immigration issues important to communities around the country. The first meeting will focus on economic development and the EB-5 investor program.

    For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon. To read the Department of Homeland Security press release, click here.

  • President Obama Speaks with Leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan

    Yesterday, President Obama placed calls to Armenian President Serzh Sargsian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.  In each conversation, he encouraged his counterparts to take concrete steps toward a final settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that has undermined peace and development in the South Caucasus for over 20 years.

    Reaffirming the statement he issued with French President Sarkozy and Russian President Medvedev in Deauville last month, the President called upon both sides to engage constructively at the summit that President Medvedev convened today at Kazan, Russia.

    While the two leaders made progress today, they have more work to do to reach agreement on the Basic Principles that would form the basis of a final peace agreement.  Armenia and Azerbaijan announced that “mutual understanding [was] achieved on a number of issues whose resolution contributes to the creation of the conditions for the approval of the Basic Principles.”

    The President told both leaders yesterday that if Armenia and Azerbaijan demonstrate the leadership and courage to seize the opportunity created by the recent momentum in the talks, the United States will stand by them.  Now is the time, he said, to offer the people of the region a better future for themselves and for their children.

    Liz Sherwood-Randall is Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European Affairs.

  • Moment of Opportunity: President Obama on the Middle East & North Africa

    In a major speech at the State Department, President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa.  He made clear that the United States will support people who call for democracy and reform and leaders who implement them, will oppose violence in cracking down on protests and efforts to limit the rights of minorities, and continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Watch the President's full remarks here.

    Also watch the online discussion that took place afterwards with questions from all over the world via Twitter, or learn more from two White House fact sheets:

    Members of the National Security Team Listen to President Barack Obama's Speech on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Sen. John Kerry, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and George Mitchell, U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, listen as President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)