President Barack Obama on Monday called for lawmakers in Washington to muster the “political courage” to pass comprehensive immigration reform that he can sign into law “as soon as possible.”
“We are making progress but we’ve got to finish the job,” Obama said at a naturalization ceremony for 28 new Americans at the White House.
The White House has offered support to the efforts of bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have been working behind closed doors to craft reform legislation.
Obama said that he expects a bill to be put forward and for debate on the draft legislation to begin next month.
Noting past attempts to address the nation's immigration issues, the president said the time for merely studying the problem is over.
“We’ve all proposed solutions, we’ve got a lot of white papers and studies,” he said. “We’ve just got – at this point – to work up the political courage to do what’s required to be done.”
The president added that reform should include border security measures, methods for “holding employers accountable,” a modernized legal immigration system and “a responsible pathway to earned citizenship” for undocumented immigrants.
Before the president's remarks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance at the White House to the new citizens, who included 13 members of the armed services. The group represented 26 different countries of origin.
Obama used his speech to not only congratulate the new citizens, but highlight a few of those in attendance whose stories help his argument about the need for immigration reform. He spoke of 35-year-old Kingsley Elebo, who’s originally from Nigeria and has a master’s degree in information technology. “He's now pursuing his doctorate. He wants to become a professor so he can help America lead the world in high tech industries of tomorrow,” Obama said.
"Immigration makes us stronger," Obama added. "It keeps us vibrant, it keeps us hungry, it keeps us prosperous. It is part of what makes this such a dynamic country."
Along with today’s remarks, the president’s reformatted campaign arm, Organizing for Action, has jumped into the debate, featuring stories on their website to call attention to the issues facing immigrants.
NBC's Shawna Thomas contributed to this report.