Biden Aides Visit Arab American Leaders in Michigan as Pressure Rises Over Gaza


White House officials traveled on Thursday to Dearborn, Mich., to meet with Arab American leaders about the war in Gaza and concerns about Islamophobia at home, as President Biden faces mounting Democratic discontent over his refusal to call for a cease-fire.

Last week, the Biden team dispatched Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the president’s campaign manager, to meet with community leaders in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit that has a large population of Arab and Muslim Americans. The city’s mayor, Abdullah Hammoud, and several other state lawmakers declined to meet with Ms. Chávez Rodríguez after coming under pressure from community leaders who are angry at Mr. Biden over the war in Gaza. Mr. Hammoud demanded to meet instead with foreign policy officials — not political ones.

The meetings on Thursday afternoon, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the plans who insisted on anonymity, were attended by higher-level governmental officials. They included Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development; Tom Perez, the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; and Jon Finer, a deputy national security adviser.

Democrats in Michigan have begun a campaign to oppose Mr. Biden in the state’s primary election on Feb. 27, urging voters to cast ballots for “uncommitted.” Mr. Biden faces no serious challenge in his party’s primary race, so the effort is a way for Arab American and liberal Democrats to register their frustration with the administration’s approach to Israel in a key battleground state.

Mr. Biden has struggled with persistently low approval ratings among key parts of his coalition, including young voters and Black voters — a decline some Democrats attribute, in part, to his handling of the conflict in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has faced protests near numerous events, including fund-raisers he attended on Wednesday in New York.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday during a press briefing on Air Force One, “We continue to speak to people in the Jewish community, obviously the Arab community and the Muslim community.” She added, “We believe it’s important to hear from these communities.”

Dearborn has one of the highest percentages of Arab Americans in the country. Census figures show that it is roughly 54 percent Arab American, a figure experts believe is a significant undercount.

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