TIME White House

Obama Will Host Naturalization Ceremony To Mark Fourth of July

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to people at 1776, a tech startup hub, on July 3, 2014 in Washington, DC. The president will host a naturalization ceremony for military men and women who are non-Americans. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Obama alluded to the event in a Monday speech

President Barack Obama will host a naturalization ceremony for American military servicemembers at the White House Friday to mark Independence Day, a White House official said.

According to the official, 15 current members of the armed forces representing all four service branches will take the oath of allegiance, as well as two veterans, one reservist, and seven military spouses. The ceremony “will recognize the contributions made by foreign-born members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have earned their American citizenship by serving our country, and the contributions that immigrants from all walks of life have made to our country throughout its history,” the official added.

Obama alluded to the event in a speech on Monday in which he pledged to use executive action to circumvent Congress to try to push through immigration reforms. Obama announced in that speech plans to pursue executive action to try to work around Congress on curtailing the deportation of illegal immigrants. Additionally, Obama has directed additional federal resources to deal with an influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Republicans, meanwhile, are calling on Obama to roll back his deferred action program for so-called DREAMers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

“Some of the servicemembers 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,” Obama said Monday. “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. And that’s why on Friday morning we’re going to naturalize them in a ceremony right here at the White House. This Independence Day will be their first day as American citizens.”

The ceremony comes hours before Obama plans to host a barbecue and picnic for military families and White House staff on the South Lawn of the White House to mark the holiday.

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