Obama urges immigration overhaul

US president says welcoming immigrants ‘central to our way of life’

 US president Barack Obama presides over a naturalisation ceremony for active duty service members and civilians in the East Room of the White House yesterday. Photograph:  Getty Images

US president Barack Obama presides over a naturalisation ceremony for active duty service members and civilians in the East Room of the White House yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:00

President Barack Obama told Americans on the Independence Day holiday yesterday that welcoming immigrants to the United States 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,” Mr Obama said at a White House ceremony for 25 foreign-born men and women who gained American citizenship for their service in the US military.

The US president is struggling on two fronts in the immigration debate.

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

Along the southern US border in Texas, Mr 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 the president is not doing enough to stop the surge.

The twin challenges have put Mr 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 US, 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.

‘Weaker nation’

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

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

The president 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 yesterday. – (Reuters)