Obama to host new citizens, push for action on immigration reform

President Obama will host a naturalization ceremony on Monday for 28 new citizens, including 13 service members, at the White House.

The move comes as the president continues to press lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform, one of his second-term priorities.

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Obama will be joined by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas in the East Room. The president will deliver remarks at the ceremony, the White House announced.

“The event underscores the contributions made to the United States by immigrants from all walks of life, including the foreign-born members of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as our shared history as a nation of immigrants,” said a White House official. “While the President remains pleased that Congress continues to make progress towards commonsense immigration reform, he believes Congress needs to act quickly, and he expects a bill to be introduced as soon as possible.”

Bipartisan groups in both the House and Senate are moving closer to unveiling separate immigration reform proposals.

The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” introduced their framework in January, calling for a pathway to citizenship, heightened border security, increased high-skilled immigration and a guest worker program. 

But since then, senators have been tied down in negotiations over the details of the plan, with many key issues still unresolved. Reports last week, though, said that sources close to the talks said they hoped to have a bill by the end of April.

The bipartisan House group has yet to share details of their proposals, but their work has already received general support from leaders in both parties. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last week praised their work as a “pretty responsible solution.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the group was “very close to an agreement,” and that lawmakers had made “real progress.”

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Advocates for immigration reform see a real chance that a bill could pass Congress this year, with growing momentum on both sides. But any immigration deal would need to pass muster with House GOP lawmakers, many of whom have said they will oppose measures that grant “amnesty” to illegal immigrants and have questioned proposed protections for gay or lesbian couples.

But after the strong showing President Obama made among Hispanic voters in the 2012 election, a growing number of conservative lawmakers have signaled they would back immigration reform, including measures to provide a pathway to citizenship.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unveiled his own proposal last week, which would first require strengthened border security before allowing illegal immigrants to apply for legal status. Paul’s support for eventual citizenship could help rally other conservative lawmakers to back reform.

Obama has held similar naturalization ceremonies at the White House in prior years. 

In 2012, he marked the Fourth of July by helping to naturalize 25 active-duty service members. That ceremony came weeks after Obama had issued an executive order allowing many illegal immigrants who were brought over to the United States as children to remain in the country and avoid deportation.


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