U.S. News


Immigration Debate Hangs Over July 4th Citizenship Ceremony

Swearing in new U.S. citizens has become a Fourth of July tradition at the White House, but this year's ceremony carries added weight and symbolism.
Posted at 2:43 PM, Jul 04, 2014

In what's become a Fourth of July tradition at the White House in recent years, President Obama is presiding over a ceremony for immigrant service members and their families as they're sworn in as U.S. citizens. (Via The White House)

President Obama has sworn in new citizens on Independence Day four of his five years at the White House, but this year's ceremony carries added weight and symbolism. (Via The White House)

That's because the president has vowed to take executive action on immigration reform following stalled legislation in Congress and a growing humanitarian crisis at the country's southern border. (Via The White House)

As thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America flock across the border, the White House has come under fire from Congress. (Via NBC)

The Los Angeles Times explains: "Conservatives contend that inadequate border security has lured them north. Meanwhile, liberal groups fault Obama as the 'deporter in chief' for sending home hundreds of thousands of immigrants who cross the border illegally."

While the White House hasn't dropped any hints about what specific actions President Obama may take, officials at the Department of Homeland Security say they are looking for ways to make the deportation policy more humane. (Via CNN)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "I'm going to keep doing everything I can do to make our immigration system smarter and more efficient, so hardworking men and women like you have the opportunity to join the American family and join our great nation." (Via The White House)

But to the frustration of both sides, there are limits to the power of the president's pen. 

For example, he can't  deport immigrants without a hearing, as some conservatives lawmakers demand. He also can't apply a blanket policy legalizing all immigrants or increase the number of eligible green cards. (Via CBS, ABC)

Some House Republicans blame the president's previous executive actions, such as one deferring deportations, for the current crisis.

MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): "Such unilateral actions and failed policies in my judgment are what caused this dire situation here in Texas in the first place." (Via Fox News)

Those naturalized Friday include 15 active duty service members, two veterans, one reserve service member and seven military spouses. (Via The White House)

Former President George W. Bush issued an executive order in 2002 expediting the path to citizenship for service members who enlisted after 9/11. Since then, more than 90,000 immigrant service members have become American citizens.