Photo: Barack Obama (Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama spoke Friday at an Independence Day naturalization ceremony for U.S. service members and military spouses, stressing the contribution of immigrants to the country and committing himself to immigration reform.
“Each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment,” he told the group. “And yet somehow - either because your parents brought you here as children, or because you made the choice yourselves as adults - you ended up here, in America.”
“And then many of you did something extraordinary: You signed up to serve in the United States military. You answered the call - to fight and potentially to give your life for a country that you didn’t fully belong to yet,” Obama said.
“Together,” he said, “all of you remind us that America is and always has been a nation of immigrants.”
“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, and pass commonsense immigration reform,” the president said.
Fifteen members of the military on active duty, two veterans, a reservist and seven military spouses, who together represented 15 countries, received their citizenship.
The deputy secretary of the Departament of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, administered the oath of citizenship.
Another kind of distinction at the ceremony went to Spanish chef Jose Andres, who received the Outstanding American by Choice award from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Andres, who became a U.S. citizen last November, settled in the 1990s in Washington, where he is president emeritus of the NGO DC Central Kitchen and also founded World Central Kitchen, through which he develops projects in Haiti.
The Spanish chef, who has become a regular in the social and cultural life of the U.S. capital, also has restaurants in California, Nevada, Florida and Puerto Rico.