Posted by Nadia N. Aziz on January 10, 2016 in Blog
President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union (SOTU) address tonight. Teased as a “non-traditional” SOTU by the White House, the President is expected to speak more directly to the American people, as opposed to speaking to Congress as he has done previously. The speech will discuss the progress made on a range of issues during his tenure thus far.
By addressing the American people directly, White House aides have said that he will attempt to set the tone for the 2016 election and empower Americans to act and participate in the democratic process.
Below are a few issues of concern that President Obama will likely discuss during tomorrow’s State of the Union, and others that he may not.
The President has called on leaders to denounce bigotry before. Considering the dramatic increase in bigoted rhetoric this primary season and an alarming number of hate crimes that have occurred in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, it is likely that he will call attention to this matter, and again call on leaders to denounce hateful rhetoric. The President may call attention to those who have denounced bigotry in the wake of the attacks, including guests of the First Lady. It is also expected that he will mention contributions American Muslims have made to our country, drawing special attention to American Muslim guests that will be seated with the First Lady in the box, and the many that are expected to be guests of their members of Congress.
With so much attention being given to the U.S. refugee resettlement program in 2015, and in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, the President is expected to discuss the U.S. commitment to continue to resettle refugees, specifically Syrian refugees.
After the tragic images of three-year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi went viral, the Obama Administration committed to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. While this number is an increase from 2015, many organizations, including the Arab American Institute advocated for increasing that number to 100,000 Syrian refugees. The aftermath of the attacks on Paris and San Bernardino brought new challenges to the refugee resettlement program as the refugee vetting process came under scrutiny by elected officials. The House of Representatives passed legislation that would add an additional step to the vetting process which the White House called “untenable.”
President Obama’s tone on refugees is likely to be a stark contrast to the anti-refugee rhetoric that has plagued public discourse. Setting a compassionate tone prior to the SOTU address, the President invited Refaai Hamo, a Syrian scientist who was recently resettled in Michigan and was featured on the Humans of New York blog, to be his guest to the address.
Immigration has been a hot topic in 2015. With Presidential candidates calling for walls on the border, and a halt to immigration of Muslims to the United States, there’s a lot the President could address here – But what the President isn’t likely to discuss are the immigrant raids that took place over the holiday season. Called out for being ill-timed and disruptive to families, the raids have brought sharp criticism of the Administration’s deportation policies from fellow Democrats and Presidential candidates.
It’s highly anticipated that the President will use the opportunity to again discuss his Executive Action to Reduce Gun Violence and Make our Communities Safer with the American people. Some have also eluded to the idea that the President may discuss ways in which he will continue to use the full power of the Presidency to continue to make progress in his last year in office, including closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
We expect the President to also address major achievements his Administration has made in the past year – including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the normalization of relations with Cuba, record health care enrollment, and steady economic growth.
Stay tuned as we follow up after the State of the Union later this week, and watch with us on Twitter tonight.
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