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Obama hosts naturalization ceremony, presses Congress on immigration reform

President Obama helped celebrate the Fourth of July Wednesday by naturalizing more than two dozen active-duty service members, and used the opportunity to press lawmakers to take up comprehensive immigration reform.

“What a perfect way to celebrate America’s birthday,” said Obama as he spoke to the 25 new citizens and their families in the White House’s East Room Wednesday morning.

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“This is one of my favorite things to do; it brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity and bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas,” he added.

Noting that America’s history of success would not be possible without generations of immigrants, Obama took the opportunity to call on lawmakers to address comprehensive immigration reform, including the DREAM Act currently stalled in Congress.

In mid-June, Obama issued an executive order bypassing Congress and allowing more than 800,000 young people to remain in the United States without risk of deportation.

“The lesson of these 236 years is clear; immigration makes America stronger,” he said Wednesday. “It positions America to lead in the 21st century. These young men and woman are testaments to that.”

After Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance, she offered her congratulations and gratitude to the newly naturalized members of the military.

“Today you have earned all the rights and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the United States,” she said. “You have put your lives on the line for our country, even before you could officially be called Americans ... Our nation thanks you for your service.”

Obama has presided over naturalization ceremonies for active-duty service members before, most recently in 2010 when he welcomed two dozen new citizens.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas also attended the ceremony.

In a statement, the White House said other administration officials would be speaking at naturalization ceremonies throughout the country today, including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu.

Later on Independence Day, the president and first lady Michelle Obama will host a picnic on the South Lawn of the White House for military families.