Washington: Taking a dramatic step to show that he opposes Republican efforts to slow or halt the admission of refugees over terrorist concerns, US President Barack Obama has invited a Syrian refugee to attend his State of the Union Address, USA TODAY reported.
Refaai Hamo, 55, a native of Syria now living in Detroit, will sit in first lady Michelle Obama's box in the House of Representatives gallery for Tuesday night's speech. Hamo drew international attention last month after he was featured in the popular blog "Humans of New York."
The scientist fled Syria's civil war in 2013 after his family home was destroyed by a bomb, killing his wife, daughter and five other relatives. He developed stomach cancer and had trouble getting treatment in Turkey, where he and millions of other Syrians have fled. After two years, he was approved for refugee status in the United States and arrived in Detroit last month.
His ordeal prompted Obama to call him "an inspiration," and actor Edward Norton organized a fundraising drive for him.
"I was thrilled when I heard that President Barack Obama is welcoming us into the United States," Hamo said in a statement.
"I felt that hope was revived as well as the strength to continue my dreams and ambition in my new country. I am so proud and honored to be in this country and look forward to one day becoming an American citizen so that we can be part of making America a strong and great country", he said.
The invitation creates a sharp contrast to Republicans who want to block refugees from war-ravaged Middle East nations.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on admitting Muslims into the U.S. after the terrorist attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on December 2 last year.