WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama saluted 25 newly-minted US citizens on Wednesday in an Independence Day pitch for immigration reform four months before he faces re-election.
“Immigration makes us more prosperous,” Obama told the active duty service members originally from 17 countries—including Bolivia, El Salvador, Nigeria and Ukraine --during a ceremony at the White House. “And immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had administered the oath of allegiance to the group in the East Room as guests looked on.
In a historic development last month, five months before he faces re-election, Obama suspended the deportations of young illegal immigrants under 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16.
The plan was largely welcomed by the Latino community and analysts say it could boost Obama's chances for re-election on November 6.
In his comments Wednesday, Obama referenced his administration's recent move and called for more steps to be taken, saying “the story of immigrants in America isn't a story of 'them,' it's a story of 'us.'”
For just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants,” Obama said. “It's why we need—why America's success demands—comprehensive immigration reform.”
Specifically, Obama called for the so-called DREAM act—a bill that aims to lead young illegal immigrants to permanent residency that has been blocked by his Republican opponents—to be given another chance in Congress.
There are 11.5 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, mostly of Hispanic origin, and efforts to deal with their status have foundered over sharp political divisions.
Obama promised to work towards comprehensive immigration reform when he ran for office four years ago but has made little progress.