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Barack Obama Talks Immigration Reform at Annual Naturalization Ceremony for Immigrant Military Members

First Posted: Jul 04, 2014 02:52 PM EDT

Photo : Getty

President Barack Obama continued a recent Fourth of July tradition at the White House today  by holding a naturalization ceremony, granting citizenship to immigrants who signed up to serve in the U.S. military as well as their spouses.

On Friday, the president hosted 15 active duty members of the military, two veterans, one reservist and seven military spouses who would be sworn in as American citizens, CNN reported.

Earlier this week Obama praised members of the military who enlisted to defend a nation that had yet to grant them citizenship.

"Some of the service members coming this year are unique because they signed up to serve, to sacrifice, potentially to give their lives for the security of this country even though they weren't yet Americans," he said. "That's how much they love this country. They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to. I think they've earned their stripes in more ways than one."

Friday's naturalization ceremony for military families marks the fourth event Obama has hosted in his five years in office.

However, this year's ceremony comes during a time of turmoil in the immigration debate as the nation's border states faces an influx of immigrant children traveling from Central America on their own, CNN reported. Officials claimed that the children have fled their native countries to escape violence that has plagued Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The president said he would continue to follow the law and deport the children back to their homelands.

Obama and the White House have used the recent dilemma to point out the need for immigration reform, which passed in the Democratic-led Senate last year, before getting stalled in the Republican-led House. As a result of the GOP's insistence to not pass comprehensive immigration reform, Obama announced earlier this week that he would take executive action, fulfilling his promise to Congress that he would sign executive orders if gridlock didn't cease.

According to CNN, White House officials said they do not know what sort of changes the president is expected to make, but the Department of Homeland Security has been reviewing its deportation policy to find ways of making it more "humane."

In 2002, former President George W. Bush signed an executive order that allowed immigrant servicemen and women who enlisted following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to have expedited naturalization. More than 90,000 military members have been granted citizenship since then.

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