CHICAGO: Middle East issues and concerns took a backseat in US President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, which focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and discrimination against American minorities.
Toward the end of his 70-minute speech, he spoke about the fight against racism and discrimination, including against Asians, veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “dreamers” — children of undocumented immigrants.
Biden said Asian Americans need protection “from still too common hate crimes,” but he did not mention Muslims or Arabs, to whom he offered a “plan for partnership” in 2020 to win their support in his presidential campaign.
Arab and Muslim Americans continue to be targets of racism and discrimination, and continue to call for their formal inclusion in the US census, which creates a basis for government support.
“If we are to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure our border and fix the immigration system,” Biden said, adding that he could do so by using technology to “catch more human traffickers” and “help families fleeing persecution and violence to have their cases heard faster by immigration justice.”
He said he would continue to push to “provide a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, those with temporary status, farmworkers, essential workers,” and vowed to protect women’s rights.
Biden addressed the health consequences suffered by many American veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They “faced many dangers, one being stationed at bases breathing in toxic smoke from burn pits,” he said.
“I have been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan more than 40 times. These burn pits incinerate waste and the waste of war, medical and hazardous materials, jet fuel and so much more,” he added.
“And they (the troops) come home, many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors in the world, never the same.”