WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama described immigration on Tuesday as the nation's oldest tradition and part of what makes the country exceptional, as he sought to draw a contrast between those who want to seal the borders and those seeking to escape hardships and persecution.
"We can never say it often or loudly enough. Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America," Obama said.
Obama is seeking this week to reassure the public about his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group while also emphasizing that the United States is a welcoming country that promotes religious tolerance.
Obama is implicitly drawing a contrast with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for a temporary ban on Muslims.
Obama spoke at the National Archives Museum, where immigrants from Iraq, Ethiopia, Uganda and 22 other nations were sworn in as U.S. citizens. He noted that the nation's first immigrants were the pilgrims and that eight signers of the Declaration of Independence were immigrants.
Participants in a naturalization ceremony raise their hands to take the "Oath of Allegiance" at an event attended by President Barack Obama at the National Archives in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. Obama spoke at the National Archives Museum, where 31 immigrants from Iraq, Ethiopia, Uganda and 23 other nations are being sworn in as U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
He noted that America has often not lived up to its values as a welcoming nation. He recited the history of slaves and immigrants from Ireland, China and elsewhere as examples.
"One generation passes, two generations passes, and suddenly we don't remember where we came from," Obama said.