On July Fourth holiday, Obama urges immigration overhaul

Posted July 04, 2014, at 4:54 p.m.
Members of the U.S. military and military spouses recite the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House.
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Members of the U.S. military and military spouses recite the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House. Buy Photo
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House.
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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House. Buy Photo
Chef and restaurateur Jose Andres (center) stands for the national anthem with members of the U.S. military and military spouses. Andres, a native of Spain who became a U.S. citizen in 2013, was honored with the Outstanding American by Choice award during the ceremony.
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Chef and restaurateur Jose Andres (center) stands for the national anthem with members of the U.S. military and military spouses. Andres, a native of Spain who became a U.S. citizen in 2013, was honored with the Outstanding American by Choice award during the ceremony. Buy Photo
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (center) administers the Oath of Allegiance to members of the U.S. military and military spouses at a ceremony for them to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
Jonathan Erns | Reuters
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (center) administers the Oath of Allegiance to members of the U.S. military and military spouses at a ceremony for them to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Buy Photo
Members of the U.S. military and military spouses recite the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
Jonathan Erns | Reuters
Members of the U.S. military and military spouses recite the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Buy Photo
President Barack Obama (left) looks on as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (center) administers the Oath of Allegiance to members of the U.S. military and military spouses.
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President Barack Obama (left) looks on as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (center) administers the Oath of Allegiance to members of the U.S. military and military spouses. Buy Photo
U.S. Army Sergeant Stephanie Vanausdall (left) wipes away tears after taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
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U.S. Army Sergeant Stephanie Vanausdall (left) wipes away tears after taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen. Buy Photo
President Barack Obama (left) hugs U.S. Army Sergeant Stephanie Vanausdall after she stumbled over her words while leading the Pledge of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony for her and other members of the U.S. military and military spouses to become U.S. citizens.
Jonathan Erns | Reuters
President Barack Obama (left) hugs U.S. Army Sergeant Stephanie Vanausdall after she stumbled over her words while leading the Pledge of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony for her and other members of the U.S. military and military spouses to become U.S. citizens. Buy Photo
President Barack Obama applauds new U.S. citizens after they took the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House.
Jonathan Erns | Reuters
President Barack Obama applauds new U.S. citizens after they took the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House. Buy Photo

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama told Americans on the Independence Day holiday on Friday that welcoming immigrants to the U.S. is “central to our way of life” as he made an impassioned argument for a new immigration policy.

“We have to fix our immigration system, which is broken, and pass common-sense immigration reform,” Obama said at a White House ceremony for 25 foreign-born men and women who gained American citizenship for their service in the U.S. military.

Obama is struggling on two fronts in the immigration debate.

His drive for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul this year collapsed when House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Washington, told him the House would not hold a vote.

Along the southern U.S. border in Texas, Obama’s administration is attempting to get a handle on the tens of thousands of children from Central America who have flooded into the country, straining resources and leading to Republican criticism that Obama is not doing enough to stop the surge.

The twin challenges have put Obama in a difficult position. While he has vowed to take executive actions on his own to make it easier for undocumented people to remain in the U.S., he says most of the recent migrants will be sent home.

This has upset immigration advocacy groups who support him and see the new migrants as victims of gang violence in their home countries.

Obama’s remarks in the White House East Room underscored his message that the U.S. would be a weaker nation without immigrants.

“The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life,” Obama said. “It’s in our DNA. … We shouldn’t be making it harder for the best and brightest to come here.”

Obama is scheduled to visit Texas next week to participate in events to raise money for Democratic candidates in the November congressional elections. But he will resist Republican pressure to visit the border, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday.

At the White House ceremony, 25 people were sworn in as citizens. They came from 15 countries ranging from Australia to Guatemala to the Philippines to Ukraine.

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