DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Community leaders in Dearborn met with senior policy officials from President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday morning amid protests from the Arab American community over the president's handling of the Israel-Hamas War.
The meeting, according to Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, lasted two hours and was with senior advisors from the Biden administration, not campaign staff.
This meeting was held to ensure that the White House and those with the ability to change the course of the genocide unfolding in Gaza very clearly hear and understand the demands of our community - directly from us. We remained uncompromising in our values and our demands for a permanent ceasefire, ending unrestricted military support to the State of Israel, and expediting humanitarian aid and funding to UNRWA, among others," Hammoud said in a statement after the meeting.
At the end of his statement, Hammoud said they have done their duty as citizens, and now it is "incumbent upon the President to do the same."
Last week, community leaders in Dearborn shut down a potential meeting with Biden's campaign
A source with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to 7 Action News that the White House delegation included a number of senior advisers and assistants to the president including Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Tom Perez, Director of the Office of Public Engagement Steve Benjamin, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Samantha Power, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer and White House liaison to American Muslim Communities Mazen Basrawi.
Just one week ago, Biden touched down in metro Detroit but avoided stopping in Dearborn, where mounting pressure has been building to abandon the president this election.
That day, a press conference was held in Dearborn to protest the visit, and near the president's motorcade, there was a protest in the street.
“Members of the community are still very reluctant about this meeting and not very pleased with the Biden administration at this time," said Dawud Walid, executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations. "The main thing we want to reiterate in general to the Biden administration and the public is that Palestinians are human beings too."
Walid says many in Michigan's Arab American community worry about the true intent behind the White House calling for the meeting.
“There is a level of real frustration that on the one hand, Biden talks about how he values the lives of innocent Palestinians but on the other hand does not force the Netanyahu government into a ceasefire and is still actively sending weapons to the Netanyahu government," Walid said, “This meeting should not be used for a photo op with the Biden administration so he can go to the media and say everything is good with the Muslims.”
As for Walid, he says he hopes they’ll make progress in the meetings but says their position has been made clear for months. He also says for many Arab Americans, it’s too late for Biden to regain their support.
“We've been in contact with senators and congresspeople who've given the Biden administration word. We've contacted the White House and he’s heard it directly from us, and it hasn't changed anything,” Walid said. "(For) many Palestinian Americans including some of my family friends, anything short of a miracle like Jesus resurrecting 30,000 people, no there’s nothing else he can do.”