WASHINGTON (AP) —
Celebrating the ethnic diversity of America, President Barack Obama said more than two dozen foreign-born service members who became U.S. citizens at a White House ceremony on the Fourth of July are vivid reminders that the country is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants.
He said the vast range of backgrounds and experiences that made America a melting pot for more than 200 years also makes it stronger, but that the immigration system has to be retooled for the U.S. to keep its place as the greatest nation on earth.
“If we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest from beyond our shores, we’re going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken,” Obama said after 25 service members from 15 countries collectively raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the United States. “Pass common-sense immigration reform. We shouldn’t be making it harder for the best and the brightest to come here, create jobs here, grow our economy here. We should make it easier.”
The hot-button issue of immigration is earning renewed attention after the influx to the U.S. of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America. Under U.S. law, they must be sent back across the border with Mexico to their home countries, which has upset immigration advocates who already take issue with Obama’s strict enforcement of deportation policy. They want Obama to allow the children to stay; he says he must follow the law.
At the same time, Obama blames House Republicans for delaying action on immigration legislation. A comprehensive measure the Senate passed last summer has been blocked by House leaders who also have done little to advance their own immigration proposals.
Obama announced earlier this week that, as a result of inaction on Capitol Hill, he will pursue non-legislative ways that he can adjust U.S. immigration policy without waiting for Congress to send him a bill.
“I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make our immigration system smarter and more efficient,” Obama said.
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