As President Donald Trump doubled down on his threats to close the southern border off to asylum seekers over the weekend, his predecessor, Barack Obama, was thousands of miles across the Atlantic, imploring young leaders in Europe to exercise empathy when it came to understanding those with anti-immigration views.
“Immigration issues are driving a lot of the political turmoil here in Europe and in my own country,” Obama said in a two-hour town hall meeting in Berlin. “We can’t label everyone who is disturbed by migration as racist.”
“If you’re going to have a coherent, cohesive society, then everybody has to have some agreed-upon rules. And there are going to have to be some accommodations that everybody makes. And that includes the people who are newcomers. The question is, are those fair?” Obama said.
“Should we want to encourage newcomers to learn the language of the country that they’re moving to? Of course,” he continued. “Does that mean that they can never use their own language? No, of course it doesn’t mean that, but it’s not racist to say, ‘Ah, if you’re going to be here then you should learn the language of the country that you just arrived at because we need to have some sort of common language in which all of us can work, and learn and understand each other.
“It gets more sensitive, obviously, around religious issues. That becomes more challenging, and I don’t have simple solutions to all of that,” the former president said. “But, I guess what I think we have to do in order to push back against…what are clearly racist motives of some… we can’t label everybody who is disturbed by immigration as a racist. ”
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