First Lady Pitches Immigration Reform to Nation's Newest Citizens/Voters

By Susan Jones | June 19, 2014 | 7:12 AM EDT


First lady Michelle Obama applauds the nation's newest citizens at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( - First lady Michelle Obama plugged immigration reform on Wednesday, telling newly minted U.S. citizens (and potential new voters) that her husband has made immigration reform "his top legislative priority."

"But I want you all to know that my husband has made this his top legislative priority, and he refuses to give up the fight. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn't just about abstract principles, it's about real people. People like you," Mrs. Obama told 50 people who took the Oath of Allegiance at the National Archives.

"And what I hope you always remember is that, as citizens, we do not shut the doors of opportunity behind us. We preserve the promise of America. We renew it. We extend it so that future generations of Americans -- Americans by birth and 'Americans-by-choice' -- can do their part to form the more perfect union that our Founders imagined so many years ago."

According to the Homeland Security Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Voting in federal elections is both a right and a responsibility that comes with U.S. citizenship." A government web page devoted to naturalization ceremonies says, "After you take the Oath of Allegiance at an administrative ceremony, you will have the opportunity to register to vote."

In her political remarks on Wednesday, the first lady subtly criticized "Washington" for failing to pass legislation that could clear the way for millions of illegal aliens to also become citizens some day:

"[I]n many ways, it is because of, not in spite of, our immigrant population that we grow stronger every single day. Yet today, here in Washington, folks are still debating whether or not to fix our immigration system even though just about everyone agrees that it is broken."

As Mrs. Obama congratulated the 50 new citizens from 44 countries, reporters in Texas and Arizona were getting a first-hand look at the nation's "broken" immigration

Here's how the Associated Press described it:


Young boys sleep in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Children's faces pressed against glass. Hundreds of young boys and girls covered with aluminum-foil-like blankets next to chain link fences topped with barbed wire. The pungent odor that comes with keeping people in close quarters.

These were the scenes Wednesday from tours of crowded Border Patrol stations in South Texas and Arizona, where thousands of immigrants are being held before they are transferred to other shelters around the country.

It was the first time the media was given access to the facilities since President Barack Obama called the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally this budget year an 'urgent humanitarian situation.'

The surge in minors, mostly from Central America, has overwhelmed the U.S. government. It also prompted Texas officials Wednesday night to order a surge in state law enforcement resources to the border in an effort to help stop the influx.

The number of Central American children apprehended at the border with Mexico has surged in recent weeks, and the government says as many as 90,000 may come here this year.