Using the hashtag #RefugeesWelcome, the White House released a series of messages on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr aimed at garnering support for refugees and detailing the screening process for welcoming them into the United States.
Tweeting from his personal Twitter account, President Obama launched the effort by reiterating to his more than 5 million followers that the United States would not be turning its back on Syrians seeking asylum. The remarks echoed a speech the president delivered earlier this week at the G-20 summit in Turkey, in which he said that closing the door to refugees "would be a betrayal of our values."
Protecting the American people is my top priority. With our 65 global partners, we're leading the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL.— President Obama (@POTUS) November 18, 2015
Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That's not who we are. And it's not what we're going to do.— President Obama (@POTUS) November 18, 2015
Within a few hours of the posts, the president's remarks received tens of thousands of retweets, likes, and shares on Facebook and Twitter, meeting backlash and support across party lines.
The administration has been attempting to push back against a growing resistance among Republicans and some Democrats. As of Tuesday, 30 governors said they would not allow refugees to enter their states.
In a White House blog post, Amy Pope, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, detailed the rigorous screening process that refugees, and particularly Syrian refugees, would undergo before gaining entry into the United States. In the coming year, President Obama plans to accept 10,000 displaced Syrians.
Pope's blog post also noted that the administration would prioritize admitting the most vulnerable Syrians—women, children, survivors of violence, and the medically afflicted.
The White House is no stranger to using hashtags to rally support for a cause. The #BringBackOurGirls tag, which was meant to promote awareness of missing Nigerian girls, went viral after First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted a photo promoting the campaign. #ItsOnUs was also a viral hashtag used by the White House and Vice President Joe Biden to raise public awareness about sexual assault.
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Sarah Gibbens is a producer on National Journal's audience development team. She previously worked as a digital media fellow at The Podesta Group and as a writer for San Antonio-based newspaper The Rivard Report. Sarah graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio where she was the editor-in-chief of the independent student newspaper, The Paisano.