President Obama used a St. Patrick's Day reception Friday at the White House to call for comprehensive immigration reform, shortly after a lengthy meeting with immigration activists to discuss his review of administration deportation policies.
"Under today's laws many of your parents and grandparents may not have made it here, and too many men and women who want to contribute to our economy are being denied that chance," Obama told celebrants gathered in the East Room of the White House.
"There is no reason why we can't do for this generation of immigrants what was done for a previous generation, to give them that chance, because, like millions of immigrants, the sons and daughters of Eire have always lived by the words of the great Seamus Heaney, who passed away last year: 'Believe that further shore is reachable from here, believe in miracles.'"
Donning a green tie, Obama also praised the "hard-won peace" in Northern Ireland and hailed the Irish people for perseverance. He called the St. Patrick's Day celebration a shared experience of U.S. and Irish cultural identity.
"It's about remembering the hills from where so many of us came and the people without whom so many of us would not be here today," Obama said.
The president was introduced by Vice President Biden, who spoke fondly about growing up in an large Irish Catholic family.
"We Irish are the only people I know who are nostalgic about the future," Biden quipped. "Think about it."
The American leaders were joined by Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, who chided Obama for toasting with a glass of water.
"I didn't think austerity was biting that far into the White House," Kenny joked.
The Irish prime minister also thanked Obama for "authorizing" Biden to travel to Ireland, and said he and the vice president had "a golf date."
Shortly after winning reelection, Biden said he wanted to take a trip to the country — but wasn't hot about the president tagging along.
“I turned to him, I said, “Barack, now that this election’s over, I’m going to Ireland,” Biden said. “You know what he said to me? He said, ‘would you take me with you? I want to play golf.’ I said, ‘I’m not so sure. But I’m going. I’m going to see where my mother is from and my mother’s father and my mother’s mother.’”