Obama praises Irish woman in speech on immigration reform

President, who faces opposition to reform plans, says Ann Dermody ‘played by rules’

US president Barack Obama has paid tribute to an Irish woman who has just become a US citizen in an address on immigration reform. Photograph:  Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

US president Barack Obama has paid tribute to an Irish woman who has just become a US citizen in an address on immigration reform. Photograph: Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

 

President Barack Obama has paid tribute to an Irish woman who has just become a US citizen in an address on immigration reform.

Mr Obama said Ann Dermody, who lives in Alexandria in Virginia, had “worked hard” and “played by the rules” and had now realised her “dream” of gaining citizenship.

He quoted from a letter sent to him by Ms Dermody before she took the US Oath of Allegiance.

“The papers we receive…will not change our different accents [OR]skin tones,” she wrote. “But for that day, at least, we’ll feel like we have arrived.”

Mr Obama used Ms Dermody as an example of those who could benefit from the immigration reform measures he is seeking to introduce during his second term.

In his weekly White House address on Saturday, Mr Obama said of Ms Dermody: “Well, to Ann and immigrants like her who have come to our shores seeking a better life - yes, you have arrived.

“And by sharing our stories, and staying true to our heritage as a nation of immigrants, we can keep that dream alive for generations to come.”

Broken system

The president late last year called for legislation to be passed to overhaul the “broken” immigration system in the US.

He referred to the number of illegal Irish immigrants in his hometown of Chicago “whose papers are not in order” during the speech. There are thought to be tens of thousands of undocumented Irish people living in the US.

The issue has been raised regularly by the current Government and its predecessors during their interactions with US politicians.

The Democrat initiative has faced opposition from Republicans and was dealt a serious blow last month as federal judges ruled the effort must remain on hold while 26 states sue to overturn it.

Mr Obama on Saturday said the White House was seeking to gather stories of how “you or your family made it to America - whether you’re an immigrant yourself or your great-great-grandparents were”.

“Of course, we can’t just celebrate this heritage, we have to defend it - by fixing our broken immigration system,” he said.

“Nearly two years ago, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to do that. They passed a commonsense bill to secure our border, get rid of backlogs, and give undocumented immigrants who are already living here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and went to the back of the line. But for nearly two years, Republican leaders in the House have refsed to even allow a vote on it.”

Mr Obama said he was going to “keep doing everything I can to make our immigration system more just and more fair”.