President Obama Urges Immigration Reform at AAPI Heritage Month Celebrations (with video)

President Barack Obama in the East Room at the AAPI event

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Washington, DC – The US President Barack Obama on Tuesday night (May 28) reiterated the urgent need to streamline the “broken” US immigration system, stating that it is essential for the country to “stay ahead in the global race.”

Addressing a select audience at the White House event celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, President Obama highlighted the historic role played by immigrants in making America a great country. “From the very beginning, ours has been a nation of immigrants; a nation challenged and shaped and pushed ever forward by diverse perspectives and fresh thinking.”

“And in order to keep our edge and stay ahead in the global race, we need to figure out a way to fix our broken immigration system — to welcome that infusion of newness, while still maintaining the enduring strength of our laws,” said the president.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed immigration reform legislation with a bipartisan vote recently, but the final shape of the bill and its passage through both the houses is still in doubt.

Obama also spoke of his own experience with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, recalling his childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia, and he referenced his college years, “when my roommates were Indian and Pakistanis, which is how I learned how to cook keema and dal.” Amid applause, the president added, “Certainly it’s been a central part of my life, the entire Asia Pacific region.”

“In every election, at every board meeting, at every town across America, we see more and more different faces of leadership setting an example for every young kid who sees a leader who looks like him or her. And that’s a good thing. We’ve got to keep that up,” Obama said.

Pointing at India-born naturalized US citizen Sri Srinivasan in the audience, who was on Thursday (May 23) confirmed by the US Senate in a landmark vote (97-0) to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the president said, “I was proud to nominate Sri, and he was just confirmed unanimously to become the first South Asian American federal appeals court judge.”

“We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure everybody works hard, everybody plays by the rules, everybody has a chance to get ahead — to start their own business, to earn a degree, to write their own page in the American story — that the laws respect everybody, that civil rights apply to everybody,” President Obama said, concluding, “That’s who we are at our best and that’s what we’re here to celebrate. That’s the challenge that I believe we’re going to meet together.”

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