President Barack Obama shakes hands with Sergey Eliseev (R) of the US Army and originally from Russia, alongside other active duty US service members, after they became US citizens during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 4, 2012. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)
By David Jackson, USA TODAY
(USA TODAY) - President Obama welcomed 25 new citizens to the United States Wednesday by saying that "immigration makes America stronger" and more prosperous.
"Immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century," Obama said at a White House citizenship ceremony for 25 members of the U.S. armed forces who were born in 17 other countries.
Immigration has become a major issue in the campaign battle between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Last month, Obama instituted a new policy that stopped deportations of children of illegal immigrants, especially those who are seeking college educations of joining the military.
The president is also seeking "comprehensive immigration reform," which includes tighter border enforcement as well as a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
Many Republicans say the emphasis should be on order security, likening the pathway to citizenship to amnesty for illegal immigrants.
During today's ceremony, Obama said: "Unless you are one of the first Americans, a native American, we are all descended from folks who came from somewhere else. The story of immigrants in America isn't a story of them. It's a story of us."
The White House put out a list of the new citizens.
From the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July by welcoming two dozen U.S. service members as newly-sworn American citizens, saying the contributions they have already made dramatize the need for Washington to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
The 25 active duty U.S. service members who became citizens Wednesday hailed from 17 different countries, including Mexico, Nigeria and Russia. In front of an audience of family and friends, the service members were administered the oath of allegiance by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in the East Room of the White House. ...
The president briefly touted his administration's move last month to stop deporting young people who were brought to the country as children and joined the U.S. military or went to college. But he acknowledged there was more work to be done in order to achieve a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system.
Obama's lack of progress on this count has been a particular frustration for many Hispanics, a key voting bloc in the November general election. Still, polls show Obama with a sizable lead over Republican rival Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters.