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Obama says naturalization ceremony at White House illustrates immigrants' key role

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 7:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Celebrating the ethnic diversity of America, President Obama said that more than two dozen foreign-born service members who became citizens at the White House on the Fourth of July are vivid reminders that welcoming immigrants “is central to our way of life.”

He pleaded anew for new immigration policies, saying the vast range of backgrounds and experiences that has made America a melting pot for more than 200 years makes the country stronger. He argued that the system must be retooled for America to remain the greatest nation on earth.

“The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life; it is in our DNA,” Obama said after the 25 service members representing 15 countries raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the United States.

“From all these different strands, we make something new here in America. And that's why, if we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our borders, we're going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken,” he said. “Pass common-sense immigration reform.”

The immigration issue is earning renewed attention because of the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America. Under law, they must be returned to their home countries, angering immigration advocates who already take issue with Obama's enforcement of deportations. They want Obama to allow the children to stay.

At the same time, Obama blames House Republicans for delaying action on legislation covering the millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. A comprehensive measure the Senate passed last summer has been blocked by House leaders who have done little to advance their own proposals.

Obama announced earlier this week that, as a result of inaction on Capitol Hill, he will pursue non-legislative ways he can adjust immigration policy on his own.

“I'm going to keep doing everything I can to keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered near a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, Calif., to await buses of undocumented immigrants, but whether those buses will arrive is unknown.

Unlike Tuesday when shouting, flag-waving protesters blocked three busloads of immigrants, Murrieta police on Friday cleared the entry road.

The estimated 100 protesters, including some supporting the immigrants, are being restricted to a “safety zone” away from the road. Many had remained all night at the site, vowing a repeat of the blockade on Tuesday.

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