News and views from the award-winning author of the Class H Trilogy: AMERICA LIBRE, HOUSE DIVIDED and PANCHO LAND

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A nation of laws - and a nation of immigrants


The New York Times reported on a unique 4th of July celebration by President Barrack Obama: A swearing in ceremony for 25 new citizens serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“Just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants,” Mr. Obama said. “And that’s why, as another step forward, we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children. It’s why we still need a Dream Act — to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country.
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July 4, 2012
Obama Marks Fourth With New U.S. Citizens
By JACKIE CALMES

WASHINGTON — President Obama for a fourth straight Fourth of July joined with military families to eat barbecue and watch fireworks from the White House lawn, but this year he also began the day with active-duty service members, presiding at a citizenship ceremony that made 25 of them new Americans.

And in between, he marked the 14th birthday of his older daughter, Malia.

The naturalization event on Wednesday in the ornate East Room, which was packed with the service members’ families and friends, was the third such ceremony in the Obama White House but the first on Independence Day.

“Happy Fourth of July,” Mr. Obama said. “What a perfect way to celebrate America’s birthday — the world’s oldest democracy, with some of our newest citizens.”

“I have to tell you, just personally, this is one of my favorite things to do,” he said, adding, “It is an honor for me to serve as your commander in chief.”

All of the new citizens had been in the country legally; residents here illegally cannot join the military. They benefited from a legal fast track that shortens the naturalization process for service members in wartime to a few weeks, according to administration officials.

Mr. Obama used the occasion both to recall his recent order suspending deportation of people brought to the United States illegally as children and to once again urge Congress to pass the so-called Dream Act, which would grant legal status, not citizenship, to such people who serve in the military or seek higher education in the United States.

“Just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants,” Mr. Obama said. “And that’s why, as another step forward, we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children. It’s why we still need a Dream Act — to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country.

“It’s why we need — why America’s success demands — comprehensive immigration reform.”

Many Republicans oppose both Mr. Obama’s order and the legislation, though the issue has proved an awkward one for Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s rival. With Latino voters concentrated in swing states like Nevada and Colorado, Mr. Romney has sought with difficulty to soften the hard-line stance he took on immigration in the Republican nomination race.

The 25 service members, all in uniform, stood and raised their right hands to recite the oath of allegiance along with Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security. They came originally from 17 countries.

According to the Pentagon, noncitizens have served in the military since the Revolutionary War and about 29,000 currently are in uniform.

To end the ceremony, Mr. Obama asked Lance Cpl. Byron Oswaldo Acevedo, a decorated Marine who was born in Guatemala and served in Afghanistan, to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. “I’m nervous,” Lance Corporal Acevedo said, before reciting it without error.

In the evening, with the temperature still in the 90s, Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama mingled on the South Lawn with casually dressed service members, some in wheelchairs, and their families amid tables clothed in red, white and blue and tents with lemonade and cotton candy stands. Entertainment included the Marine Corps band, the country music star Brad Paisley and, of course, the annual fireworks display on the National Mall — viewed from a prime location.

In brief remarks, Mr. Obama spoke of the heroism of those present. “Americans are celebrating the freedoms that all of you and your families defend,” he said. “Like many of them, we’re grilling in the backyard.”