WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden called for bipartisan action on a pathway to citizenship for some migrants during a naturalization ceremony Friday at the White House in which he celebrated the contributions immigrants have made to the U.S.
“We need an immigration system that both reflects our values and upholds our laws. We can do both,” Biden said.
The president said there should be a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, for foreign-born people who have temporary protected status due to strife in their birth countries and for farm workers. Biden’s comments, however, stopped short of the legislative proposal he’s endorsed, which includes a much broader option for most immigrants to apply for legal status and then seek citizenship.
In February, Biden and congressional Democrats proposed a major immigration overhaul that included an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people living in the United States illegally. Republican lawmakers blocked the effort and have criticized the administration for the rise in people attempting to cross the southern border without visas.
The immigration debate involves fundamental issues of national security and economic growth. Republican lawmakers seeking to limit immigration say it will help keep the U.S. safe and protect jobs for native-born citizens. But economists — many associated with Democrats — say increased immigration would boost economic growth, currently weighed down by falling fertility rates.
But on Friday, Biden emphasized the contributions immigrants have made to the U.S., noting his own family came from Ireland generations ago.
“It’s dreams of immigrants like you that built America and continue to inject new energy, new vitality, new strength,” he said.
Biden said the coronavirus pandemic — where immigrants helped save lives as frontline workers, scientists and researchers — and the recent Mars rover landing, which was driven by a team full of immigrants, proved his point.
On Friday, the president also recognized Sandra Lindsay as an “Outstanding American by Choice,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program that recognizes citizens who have been naturalized. Lindsay is believed to be the first American to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial. She works as director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York.