President Obama commemorated Independence Day by welcoming new U.S. citizens, including members of the U.S. armed forces.
“I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make our immigration system smarter and more efficient,” the president said at the White House naturalization ceremony.
The president has ramped up his criticism of congressional Republicans this week for killing immigration this year and possibly beyond his tenure in the White House.
He has vowed to take executive actions without Congress in the future.
Obama recognized 25 active duty service members from 15 countries who became U.S. citizens in the East Room, a yearly tradition for the president.
He said the new Americans are a vivid reminder that the U.S. has always been a nation for immigrants.
“Together, all of you remind us that America is and always has been a nation of immigrants,” Obama said.
The president said the event was one of his favorites and “not just because we get to have a barbecue and watch fireworks later.”
“It’s because each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment — journeys that began in places like Jamaica and Germany, China and Guatemala,” he said.
Well-known Chef José Andrés, who owns several restaurants in Washington and around the country, was recognized as the Outstanding American by Choice, which goes to those who have “demonstrated their commitment to the country and to the common civic values that unite the nation.”
Andrés became a U.S. citizen in November.
This story was updated at 1:53 p.m.